On my way to Jan’s yesterday, a quail ran across the road in front of me. I slowed to a crawl, for I’ve never seen a solitary quail, they always travel in herds. Okay, okay, I know - officially it’s a covey, and a gaggle of geese and a murder of crows - but when quail are scampering along the ground they look just like a herd.
As I crept forward another quail popped out of the brush on the opposite side of the road. He feinted a few times, then dashed across the road right in front of my bumper. He was followed by a dozen more quail in a scuffling scurrying panic.
As they disappeared into the manzanita I felt unexpectedly happy. And grateful I had slowed down.
I’ve never seen a pressed quail on the road, so I suspect I could have continued apace, but the wild things right now have house-building and baby-making on the brain, and they are not cautious. So I feel more responsibility for them.
Later, on the way home, I saw a squirrel ten toes up in the middle of the road, his little dead paws clutching at the air. I think he must have misjudged a leap, for there was not a mark on him.
I once had a friend come to visit who parked his car in my driveway with the sunroof open. When he opened the door as we were saying goodbye a very irate squirrel dashed out of his car, chattering and scolding. We think he fell off the wires that crossed the driveway, and into the car through the sun roof. We were amused; he was not. But he was very lucky, for every day or so there is the sad sight of a new dead squirrel in the street.
I thought about how seeing wild things, quiet and shy, makes me feel all is right with the world. And seeing wild things dead brings a sadness that lasts a long while. We in our cars are unwitting predators; it’s not a fair fight. So I will slow down and cede the right of way to those creatures who were here first. It's the least I can do for the leap of joy they bring to my heart.