Sunday, April 23, 2006

At Two With Nature

That Ikea chair is the best investment I've made in a long time. I'm out on my balcony every chance I get now, and hour for hour by the time the summer gets too hot, I bet it'll be a better NPV than a movie ticket. It's especially nice now, because I get my favorite view of nature--a carefully controlled and picturesque overview.

There is a pond behind my townhouse. It is, by no stretch of the imagination, a natural phenomenon. I live in Phoenix, and so the pond is incredibly and obviously man-made. It is a shade of blue-green never contemplated by nature. It is, in short, a travesty. But it attracts dozens of types of birds, and for that alone I love it. There is a little duck couple that lives at my end of the pond, and they have a little fuzzy duckling whom I get to see from time to time. There's an assortment of noisy little chirpy birds, and despite the fact that the heavily treated pond has an odor vaguely reminiscent of the seal exhibit at a zoo, I quite enjoy it.

But this morning I got two bonus surprises. First, as I was sitting, there was a watery ruckus under the balcony, and when I leaned forward to peer out from behind my tipsy trumpet vine, I saw a goose family clamber ashore. Geese kind of scare me as a rule. They're vicious creatures, as you would know if you'd been chased by one up the path of a manor estate--they look like Christmas dinner, but they're mean, they're faster than they look, and they hiss and bite. But I couldn't help but be charmed by the four fuzzy goslings waddling around and eating grass, their little downy bottoms bobbing up and down in what will surely be the filmic definition of "adorable" when the truly multimedia Hitchhiker's Guide really does come to pass.

I allowed myself to be distracted until they stumbled out of sight, and then renewed my commitment to rid my home of ten outdated publications today (four down, and it's not noon yet). I raised my NYT Book Review so that it shielded my face from the sun and focused on a review of Rich Cohen's "Sweet and Low" (yes, the pink stuff, and nonfiction to boot--his grandma sounds eerily familiar). I was just getting back in the groove when I became aware of a noise like a two-inch helicopter chuntering nearby. When I lowered the paper there was a hummingbird so close that I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face. It just hovered there and looked at me, zipping around a few inches every couple of seconds to get a really good look, and then suddenly it sped away.

I know it's ludicrously irresponsible for me to while away hours out there in my bathing suit when I should be doing laundry or housework. I know that I'm essentially daring skin cancer to have its way with me (for the record, 45 SPF buys a redhead less than 45 minutes). But even if I have to put on long pants and a long sleeved shirt and a goofy hat, I'm going to wring every moment of pleasure out of that balcony and my Ikea chair. It's officially all about the ROI.

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