This collection of eleven essays details Taylor's lighthearted adventures and the joy she experiences when interacting with nature's special creatures. Experience a lesson in magic in the story "Henry the Mule Deer" as Taylor describes her attempts to help this animal rid himself of wind chimes that became entangled in his antlers. Read about a lesson in bravery as she rescues Tulip the mallard duck from a month's accidental imprisonment in a drain pipe. Discover the special relationship Taylor has with Salem, a miniature, seven-pound, seventeen-year-old tabby cat.
Infused with a deep love and admiration for wildlife, these first person stories serve to awaken the heart and provide a deeper insight into the heart and soul of nature.
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A Journey into the Soulful GardenConnecting Spirit with Nature
By L.M. Taylor
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 L.M. Taylor
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Chapter Onea lesson in magic Henry the Mule Deer
DEER TRACKS A special day about woods and deer tracks Rain-softened mud showed clear deer tracks where mother and little one earlier crossed my path. One set smaller wandering back and forth among the steadier, larger tracks. I stopped, stooped and placed the vee of my spread fingers in one of the tracks and felt the deer. The next rain will flatten all the mud again, and erase these sharp prints. I realized that my foot prints will also disappear but it was all right, Better; at once I was free, unfettered. I walked along counting the minutes of my great day.
By Henry Burt Stevens www.authorsden.com
It was early March. I felt extremely cool. Crispness was in the air when I stepped out from the atrium onto the porch landing. A blackish shadow caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Focusing my gaze, I noticed there were several bucks and a few female deer grazing on the grass approximately twenty feet away. A few quickly scurried around the corner by the brilliant blue giant spruce trees near the creek, fearful of my presence. As I stood perfectly still, one young deer seemed to have no apprehension at all and walked in a beeline in my direction. I turned away from the deer and walked back inside. I had an old metal bucket on the floor. I filled it with a critter crunch wildlife food mix and cut up a few apples. I was now ready to feed the deer.
The deer waited patiently at the porch for my return. Had he tried this before with another human or was this just a coincidence? I moved along quietly to meet him outside the atrium door to the back stone steps.
With an outstretched hand, I offered a delectable treat of seeds. He finished three handfuls quickly. I relished the experience of this close encounter with this magnificent creature. I decided to get a larger bucket to see what would happen. This time, I had a little more seed to offer him. He went on to polish off several more handfuls until he was satisfied. Deer have double stomachs like cows and do not have to digest their food immediately. I assumed my hand would be a wet, slimy mess and smell unpleasant. To my surprise, there was no odor of any kind. My hand was perfectly clean. A long, soft tongue gently stroked my hand a few more times; all the while, I studied his body for any distinguishing marks that made him different from the others. This buck needed a name. What seemed appropriate to me at this moment was Henry.
The remaining herd, with large, globelike, piercing, black Bambi eyes, stayed close. They stared at me, trying to figure out how he got food and they did not. They were skittish and rightly so. This is the way nature prefers it. Then Henry walked away, and so did the rest. I sent a silent communication: "I enjoyed your visit; come again."
On another occasion, I was taking a water container out to the garden shed for storage some seventy feet away. After placing the container on the ground in the shed, I gathered up a blue-handled watering can. Henry appeared suddenly, antlers and all, from behind the Mountain Ash tree at the shed's entrance. I had not heard him at all, so this moving shadow startled me. It took my breath away for a moment. I recognized his markings. He had a fuller face than the others, the largest ears that I had ever seen, and two half-broken-off antlers from either jostling with other males or scraping off bark from a tree.
The path leading to the atrium was snow-covered. He joined me in stride and walked a well-worn path of fresh hoof prints to the bag of grains sitting on the porch. Only one yard separated us. This was a really smart buck, no doubt about that. He had me pegged as a real softy. I did not mind at all, for a special bond had been established to something in the wild, and it was magically displayed by Mr. Henry.
I learned some time later that deer have a familiar route that they visit daily. I see him at least twice a week. I may miss the odd few days. A favorite time for their visits is at dusk, under cover.
I had just filled my peanut butter feeder earlier that morning. Several holes were drilled into a short wooden log to hold the food, and the log is hung up for mother nature's feathered friends. Later that afternoon, a deer was on the porch and was happily licking away all of the peanut butter from the feeder. Upon witnessing this, I thought it best to move the feeder to a higher perch. I have heard from others and noticed from my own experience that deer enjoy unsalted peanut butter on apples, corn on the cob, bananas, and even watermelon.
I wanted to see if Henry would let me touch his chin, cheek, or forehead. He did willingly, and the light gray hairs that covered his face and body were soft to the touch. Some clumps of hair had fallen to the ground because of molting in the spring. I picked it up to look at it more closely, noticing a crimping pattern. This hair resembled miniature baffles, like insulated curtains that cover windows, perhaps for warmth!
The next fall, I was tidying up my herb garden with a statuesque Saint Francis presiding over the bed. I was focused on covering the last lavender plants for the winter, when I heard some chimes. I did not have any chimes in my back garden area. I carefully peered up from the fragrant lavenders to hear this sound again. In the next moment what stepped forward was a sight to see. I could not believe my eyes. Chimes were wrapped around the antlers of a buck. One-foot-long dangling metal tubes and a square piece of wood were pasted across its forehead. I had to laugh to myself. How often would you ever see something like this? I wondered if anyone would notice their chimes were missing.
It was moving toward me slowly but was afraid. One of the foot-long chime tubes was hitting him directly in his right eye. He was squinting, shaking, and tossing his head around. I felt he was desperate. Is this a sign I am supposed to do something? I hurried back to the house for some bird seed and very sharp, small, red hand pruners. I decided against using knives, scissors, or loppers. At this time of season, the antlers are just tender blood vessels with a soft velvet covering and are extremely sensitive.
Bending down on one knee, I could see the black threads from the chimes were wrapped tightly around the antlers many times. It was squeezing the antlers so tight, they were bulging a bit. This had to hurt. I held out my left hand, which was full of seeds, and he started to eat. With my right hand that held my clippers, I took a very quick snip. It was a lucky clean cut, and the one tube fell down on the grass, leaving his eye free. If the chime had hit a stepping stone, it would have sounded a noise and the buck could have bolted. I thought of this later. I felt the need to take care of this situation. He seemed happy, I am guessing because he was relieved of some pain.
Henry had enough of me pulling on his sensitive antlers. He turned gracefully around and walked down the path, out of sight. Still hanging from the antlers was a small piece of wood and three foot-long tubes attached by nylon strings, chiming away. It made me laugh, but I was sympathetic to his situation. Would the other bucks think he was special? Maybe females would be more attracted to him. Perhaps he would be recognized as the leader of the group because he had something exclusively unique that the others did not have. A local newspaper displayed a picture of Henry with a comment from Bill, an avid photographer and his friend, Cam, who together captured this great moment.
After speaking to the conservation officer in our area, I was informed that it had been quite a year. Another buck was reported carrying around a tomato cage attached to its antlers and another one with a children's inflatable inner tube around its neck. I heard that another trusted human being was able to feed the buck and snatch the tomato cage off. I truly do not feel anyone could attempt the inner tube removal!
When a buck's antlers lose their soft, furry, velvet covering, the new bone growth continues to harden in a very short time, like petrified wood, making them not so sensitive. When bucks rub their antlers up against trees, they not only mark their territory by scraping the bark off trees but they can completely remove their antlers.
Henry returned the following week, still with the musical chimes dangling around his antlers, now more twisted than ever. He came close, and I made another attempt to remove them but failed. He trusted me one more time, but I was again unsuccessful. This was all the attention he could handle and walked away. After this meeting, several weeks passed before I saw him again.
Auspiciously, he returned, and I thought it was a different buck because I was expecting to see one with the chimes clinging to its head. After closer inspection, I noticed that red tuft on the head and a wide, gray face as he walked in my direction. There were no chimes anywhere, but no other buck had ever walked directly to me. It was then I knew for sure it was my Henry. The company he came with kept their distance.
The shriveled, burgundy-colored crab apples from winter's freeze were lying on the ground and softening. Indeed, they were the favorite appetizers of four-legged animals. A blush apple wine is ready on the uppermost part of the tree. The robins and Cedar Waxwings enjoy these in abundance and become intoxicated if they devour too many in a short amount of time. They become a little slower and wobble around a bit, and are even known to fall off fences. The wine does not seem to affect the deer as far as I can tell. It is a pleasure to watch several species of birds consume apples at a more leisurely pace, and there are always a few remaining on the trees in the late spring. The lower branches of the apple trees are barren by late autumn thanks to the deer. In spring, more robins return from their journey south and polish off the last few dehydrated pieces that are left scattered across the ground. Nothing seems to go to waste, just as nature intended.
I was in the fruit orchard when a deer picked up a very large pink apple from the ground and it got lodged in her mouth. I witnessed the doe lifting and shaking her head from side to side. She was having trouble breaking the fruit in half. Because of this, there was a constant stream of apple juice running down from her chin to the ground. It was quite a waterfall. She wanted to enjoy the apple, not waste it. Finally, she spit out a crumpled mess on the ground and moved away to a different tree and a smaller apple.
A few years ago, I saw that one young doe had given birth to female twins. I knew they were females because the next year, the same three came, and no antlers appeared all season. They spent the summer on a cool, cleared-off dirt pile near the roadside, hidden by trees and bushes. Another favorite location for them was by my greenhouse door. There was plenty of protective coverage in these hidden locations. The walking path to the greenhouse was just over twenty feet wide, and there stood a tall Blue Spruce in the middle: a perfect hiding spot and plenty of shade from the heat in the afternoon. Walking down the staircase to the greenhouse level, I was usually greeted by the doe resting and lying on the cold loam. Her baby fawns were so well hidden somewhere that I could not even see them even though I tried to look around for them; they surely had to be close by. Sometimes she left them for long periods of time to avoid attracting predators. The young ones were taught to keep silent for their own protection.
These are some of Henry's friends who came to visit me, and they all brought me solace. They knew they were welcome at all times in the garden's safe haven. I look forward to seeing Henry each season, knowing I can be a special factor in his life. He knows I will always be there for him and his friends.
Chapter Twoa lesson in compassion Orangy the Orangutan
The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else. -Barry Commoner, 1917
The islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java are mountainous and thick with rainforests. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and lies across the equator in Southeast Asia. One of the highest mountains is Mount Kinabalu, rising 13,455 feet. The rainforests have swamp areas that are diverse with many different types of fruit trees, berries, flowers, insects, and roots.
Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, the orangutan is currently found only in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra. They are now critically endangered in Sumatra. They are close to extinction in most areas. At the turn of the century, there existed 315,000, and now the numbers are down 92 percent. Approximately 80 percent of the tree canopy and their habitat have been destroyed by legal and illegal logging. Generally, the trees are used for pulp and making garden furniture. One research scientist has speculated the date of 2025 for complete extinction according to the research findings.
There are two types of orangutans who originally inhabited the rain forests. In these areas, the first type are known as wild orangutans, naturally living without man's interference. The second type are the rehabilitated orangutans. They have long arm spans of six or seven feet, longer than their standing height. Their weight can range from one hundred and twenty to three hundred pounds. One adult orangutan is about as strong as eight adult humans. They are not very acrobatic like the lighter monkeys. Graceful and agile yet slow, they still cover up to a mile a day through the forests and grasslands. Like the gorillas or chimpanzees who knuckle walk, orangutans fist walk. This does not seem to be a problem for them.
Their diet consists of 350 species of plants. They find it mostly near ground level, so climbing is not that necessary for them. The life span of the orangutan is around thirty or forty years. They are generally anti-social, except some who enjoy play-fighting, hide and seek, and sunbathing. They are extremely intelligent and reason well. They can remember fruiting seasons of many different trees and fruit-bearing plants. Some say they seem to prefer women over men from research studies with trainers and scientists.
At night, they sleep in nests that can be assembled in a few minutes with branches, leaves, or palm fronds. In the morning, they will eat what material is in their nest. If a heavy downpour happens suddenly, they will hold a large palm frond over their heads. Orangutans use umbrellas and smaller leaves like napkins to wipe food off their face. How clever of them!
Some are illegally captured and domesticated. They are then trained for human pleasure, and sometimes their body parts are sold for profit. The pet trade is taking a toll on orangutans, even with the help of conservation groups and government intervention. The captive orangutans command high prices from zoos and also as experimental animals. Many are recaptured and then are retrained for successful rehabilitation and released back into the wild. The Honolulu Zoo is where I first met Orangy the orangutan. The palm trees were whispering in the warm sunlight that lined the rock path to the expansive gorilla cage. Sitting several hundred yards away from me, there was a pair of orangutans on a grassy knoll surrounded by many white-barked eucalyptus trees and several flowering plumeria trees. The aroma from the white flowers drifted in the air-the scent of gardenia spice.
They are the most plentiful type of flowering trees on the islands and are used in making leis. They range in color from snow white to brilliant rose, soft red, and deep wine shades that stand out among the stately palms. These flowering trees drop their silky petals each winter season on streets, staircases, and even in the sand, due to the tropical trade winds. I have seen tourists pick up the flower, breathe in the scent, and place it behind their ears. Giant bird-of-paradise also flourish here, with their showy colors of yellow, orange, red, and lavender.
The strikingly attractive Lantana bush catches the eye because of its bicolor flowers. Like the setting sun, on one flower are variations of yellow, orange, and red. Others are blue, violet, and purple. It's a hardy, pungent, and bitterly perfumed hedge that grows freely in the tropical landscape. Most creatures will stay away from Lantanas, so this makes for long-lasting plants. The gardens that surround the orangutans are also planted with ginger, gardenias, wild orchids, mock oranges, tuberose, pikake, Queen Emma lilies, and beach naupaka. This is part of the environment orangutans get to live in, and it is paradise to me.
Excerpted from A Journey into the Soulful Garden by L.M. Taylor Copyright © 2010 by L.M. Taylor. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Henry the Mule Deer....................xv
Chapter 2 Orangy the Orangutan....................10
Chapter 3 Bouquet of Bees....................16
Chapter 4 Tulip the Mallard Duck....................24
Chapter 5 Kekaimalu the Wholphin....................34
Chapter 6 The Hawaiian Zebra Dove....................40
Chapter 7 Indigo the Black Bear....................48
Chapter 8 Miel the Canada Goose....................58
Chapter 9 The Hawaiian NeNe....................66
Chapter 10 Rufous the Hummingbird....................74
Chapter 11 Salem the Cat....................82