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Babies of Late Summer

September 8, 2010

Just like when I was pregnant and noticed pregnant people everywhere–now I have lizard babies in my back yard and I’m noticing them along the trails at Santiago Oaks everywhere. This little guy likes to warm up every morning in the first rays of sun on the mound outside our living room window–he’s only about two inches long (and half of that is tail) in this photo, but eating bugs (I hope) and growing every day.

How did we get western fence lizards in our downtown Orange garden? I don’t know…I’ve been planting lots of native plants for the last five years, and this year, voila–western fence lizards join our original inhabitants: alligator lizards (who have shared our house as friendly guests off and on over the years…)

Here’s a poem about growing native plants–inspired by a talk Mike Evans of Tree of Life Nursery gave at a California Native Plant Society/Orange County Chapter meeting. (And also inspired by the neighbor problems naturalist Joel Robinson has had with people on his street protesting his front-yard native plant garden…)

There Goes the Neighborhood

More than a photo, deeper than the stab

of emotion captured en plein air*—

native gardens are performance art.

They do not shine so well in glossy magazines;

rather than decoration, these are places.

Inhale the sage. Admire a hover fly

in pollinator paradise—a busy world,

your back yard is (minus rush hour),

a-flit with swallowtail, lit up by goldfinch.

What is softer than a sycamore’s leaf-fur?

Plant one and see how hummingbirds

cozy their young with fuzz and sticky webs

from arachnids glad to be your neighbors,

to be a part of so much elegant sprawl

of buckwheat, ceanothus, manzanita,

panache of needlegrass, elan of lizards.

Smell—feel—listen—taste—brush-footed butterflies

or lemonade berries can open up your eyes.

* En plein air: A French expression for “in the open air,”

used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

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