I really love the word “AWESOME.” The reason for this is quite simple, really. It describes today. My really awesome day.
With winter only a few weeks away, I have been feeling the blistering cold on my skin each time I walk to the front of the property to check the mail. Likewise, when I sweep the terrace or rake the back yard, the wind makes me pick it up a notch or two. After making things pretty, I sit and watch the wildlife gather. This is something I am not quite used to, having lived for so long at the top of a high-rise apartment building. Now that I live on ground level in Utsjoki, I get to see Finland from a whole new perspective.
For the past month, I have watched as red squirrels gather up the nuts I leave outside in the squirrel box. They come down from the trees, run across the fields, climb up to their box and lift the lid (the front is thick transparent plastic so that the squirrels can see the nuts but the birds cannot steal them – not even the woodpeckers!), and they reach in and stuff their gob full of nuts. With cheeks bulging, they run down to the ground, find a spot and bury their bounty. At first, I thought this was pretty silly, especially when my friends and family in Finland said they are insane, since they can never find their nuts again after they do it. But today, I discovered how wrong they were.
While straightening up the dining room, I looked out the window and saw a squirrel. Instead of sitting up on the squirrel box, he was sitting on the ground, digging to his heart’s content, and every little hole he dug produced a nut. This little guy (whose fur is now going extremely grey due to the snow) gorged himself on the treats he had spent the previous month burying. It was truly hypnotic to watch, and even the cats couldn’t stop staring.
Each time a sparrow, blue tit, yellow tit, magpie, duck or crow got too close while he was feasting, his tail would quickly and violently whip back and forth. I remember just once, back in my hearing days, seeing that happen when I had inadvertently disrupted a squirrel on the ground. I was walking from the bus stop to the apartment, not realising that there was a squirrel gathering up his buried nuts. I walked past him too close (perhaps one metre away) when suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw a bright red, fluffy tail thrashing back and forwards as a very loud and angry chattering came from the beautiful little ball of fluff which had just run up a nearby tree. It was the only time I have ever heard a squirrel, but that tail whipping still brings up the memory of that day. The squirrel in the back yard today did quite a lot of tail whipping, scaring away any beast that came near it while it ate.
The other thing which blew my mind today was the speed at which tiny birds can eat sunflower seeds. I discovered recently that sparrows and tits like those seeds even more than they like the big balls of fat, breadcrumbs and bird seed which go into their ball hanger (sorry if that gives men a painful visual – but I truly mean a wire spiral hanger which holds these balls that the tiny birds love to feast on).
Until last week, I had been treating the birds to fat balls and bread crumbs. I discovered that the larger birds enjoy the bread crumbs, while the smaller birds devoured the balls. I then decided to load up the 1 litre hanger with sunflower seeds and hang them in a place above the garden where the falling seeds will happily grow into new sunflowers next spring. One litre. Seriously, I FILLED this container to the brim yesterday afternoon and hung it in just the right spot. The sparrows and tits completely ignored the balls and went for the sunflower seeds, almost as if I had just produced the birthday cake at a party. But this is not what surprised me the most. This morning, the container was empty! I thought it must have broken at the bottom so I went and checked. No breakage. Just lots of hungry birds, grateful for the super-yummy-licious snack.
As a large fresh bowl of water was on the ground, the squirrels and birds also quenched their thirst – something they will soon only be able to do with snow, as the temperature freezes the bowl of water each night. I try to put it as far under the terrace awning as possible, though, in the hopes of prolonging the water’s unfrozen state.
So this morning, I sat and watched my snow-filled yard as the wildlife feasted madly, not caring that on the other side of the triple-glazed windows were two cats and a human who were unable to stop staring at how amazingly awesome they are.