Some nights I have trouble falling asleep, and it has nothing to do with not being tired enough or having too much on my mind. I can't sleep because I don't want to miss a single thing that is going on out there in the dark woods just beyond my bedroom window. It's particularly bad on warm nights when the window is wide open and my face is just inches from it. While it's too dark to see anything, there is plenty to hear especially now as summer is winding down and many woodland creatures are putting on their best performances of the year.
If the woods belong to the woodpeckers, crows and hawks during the day, then the night definitely belongs to the owls. As early as 9 p.m., I hear them sometimes far, other times near, but never to be mistaken for anything but the mysteriously magnificent creatures they are. While I've never seen one in all the time I've lived here, I've certainly heard them plying the night air with this distinctive calls. If my research serves me right, I'm hearing the barred owl a lot these nights, as well as the great horned and the long-eared owl. And not to be outdone are the loons, whose calls exhibit a new sense of urgency as though they are giving it all they've got before it's time to leave for another year. It always begins with their first haunting notes, then builds to their more insistent tremulous calls as they move from place to place.
This is also the season of the cricket and other insects that fill these woods with sounds both high-pitched and insistent. I hear the coyotes barking and yipping from deep in the woods and a nearby dog barking its response or its distress. Sometimes I hear something come crashing down among the trees, as I did one night not long ago when something screamed before the crash came. I suspect that one of my cats had approached a raccoon and it scrambled up a tree only to find a branch that wasn't strong enough to hold it. I went out the next day to inspect, but with so much dead growth interwoven along the forest floor, it's always hard to tell if anything new's been added to the pattern.
Last night, the rain came down steadily and heavily for several hours, and this morning, the residual raindrops sparkled in the sunlight as they slipped from the leaves. I lay awake a long while listening to it and feeling the spray coming in through the open window, of hearing the rain bearing down on the roof. At one point, it was hitting the ground so hard that my room was bathed in the rich earthy smell of the soil as its particles were being displaced by the insistent raindrops. It occurred to me then that, along with all the others wonders that nature keeps presenting to me, it now seems that she also has the capacity to turn and aerate the earth simply by raining down upon it. It's a scent that I always eagerly await in the spring and that touched a somewhat bittersweet note in me at this point in the year.
Which brings me to this, the fact that I have now been sharing my thoughts and observations here for nearly a year as the seasons once again come full circle. I began last year around this time to put down what I see and feel here, what I've learned and what realizations I've arrived at simply by looking at things such as leaves and by listening to what the wild creatures have to say. As I end this today, a crow is cawing from a nearby tree, announcing its presence in this rain-washed sunkissed place I call home, where I hope to continue, at least for a little while longer, to find new things to write about. Somehow, I don't think that will ever be a problem.