Kiki the kitten has joined forces with nature to help me focus on the beauty of a Northern California autumn. Since Kiki is new to our home, she likes to spend her mornings exploring the landscape. Her fascination has made me see things differently, especially in my own front yard.
If not for Kiki’s wanderings, I would have missed the ‘Paper white’ narcissus pushing up through the soil, fat buds leading the way. I also could have easily ignored the velvety purple-ness of the Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage) where honeybees and territorial hummingbirds work the flowers.
The Tagetes lemmonii (Copper Canyon daisy) is hard to miss, but the clouds of golden-yellow flowers are tended by bumblebees and syrphid flies, something I wouldn’t have noticed if not for Kiki’s interest in all things winged. The kitten also likes to gnaw on the dried blooms of our oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), causing me to focus on the plant’s handsome bronze leaves.
Following Kiki’s gaze into the sky, I have noticed there are new visitors in our midst. The northern flickers are back, their screeches competing with the ever-present scrub jays. A group of western bluebirds stopped by for a day or two, enjoyed the birdbath and Toyon berries and left. The wild turkeys have returned to our cul-de-sac as well. Rafters of toms often strut across the street to clumsily hop up and down at the bases of our neighbors’ fully loaded olive trees. The big birds also like to sit on our neighbors’ roof, early and messy enough to be a nuisance.
My gaze inevitably is drawn away from Kiki, to the east where we have a wide view of the Vaca Valley. This year’s fall colors were so vivid it looks as if someone airbrushed them in. The liquidambars, Chinese pistaches, Modesto and Raywood ashes glow among the steady greens of the evergreen redwoods and pines and oaks.
I know there will come a day when Kiki the cat will proudly bring us a bird she has caught. Until then, I’m thankful she hasn’t decided to chase down one of those turkeys. And I’m grateful she’s helped me refocus on the beauty all around me.
— Kathy Thomas-Rico