When Absence Proves Presence

26 04 2016

They’re back. They have to be, because something is missing in the air.

We’ve been waiting for a couple of weeks now, hadn’t given them much thought until the mosquitoes started coming out in full force.

We’re closing in on a year since we first came to the open house and decided to put in an offer on this property. In that time we’ve witnessed much in terms of what the mountains have to offer us.

We survived a winter that dumped so much rain on us that, here in Ben Lomond, they stopped measuring in inches. With over five feet of rain this season, we have cleaned the roof and gutters countless times of branches and redwood debris, only to have them fill up again within days. We have witnessed massive branches falling in front of our windows, as well as entire trees coming down, taking power lines with them as well as sometimes blocking the road. These poor trees, many of which became weakened from drought, could no longer stand the weight of water inside of them. Part of me knew how they felt. I’d had enough of the rain.

One night it rained so hard that I couldn’t sleep. I opened my eyes, looked up at my skylight and could swear that a wave was cresting over the house.

We’ve had power outages. PG&E came out immediately when we called — a tree had taken out the power line just at the end of the paved part of our road. We were hopeful that in a few hours we’d be back up and running. You can imagine our dismay when we went out later to check progress to find they had abandoned the work site in favor of larger repairs with more customers. They did not return for TWO WHOLE DAYS. We had long since abandoned the refrigerator and ran small appliances on a medium sized generator after Danae accidentally broke the pull chord on the house generator that would have kept our major appliances and water system running. All the water we had existed in the line from the tank to the house. We adhered to the “If it’s brown, flush it down” rule and barely made it through without going to a hotel before PG&E finally decided we were worth their efforts.

The roar of the seasonal creek next to the house after an 11 inch rainfall sounds much like the jet engine of an airplane at take off and definitely took some getting used to.

The winter was hard, but what came after reminded us what makes all the hardship worth it. When the sun finally came out, the forest floor began exploding in wildflowers. First the Milkmaids, then Columbines, Baldhip Wildrose, and too many others to name.

We’ve met so many new creatures in the seven and a half months since moving here — my beloved newts and banana slugs, the giant salamander (as well as several other, more common, species of salamander), the gray fox and, of course, who I was referring to at the beginning of this post, the bats.

When we first moved here, we would sit out on the deck with a glass of wine and wait for 6:55, the precise time when the bats would emerge from beneath the house every evening on their quest for a substantial bug dinner. We never did figure out which species live here before they went away from us. We couldn’t be sure if they were migratory bats and had left for a warmer climate sometime in October, or whether the amount of work we had going on underneath the house had frightened them away. We knew we’d have to just wait and see.

Once the patio was finished and the hot tub was in place and working, we began seeing more and more bugs, particularly giant, hulking mosquitoes. Up on the hill, where the goats and chickens live, the bug life was almost unbearable.

Saturday, Kaherdin cut down four more trees with an axe, and I cleared out a bunch of old book cases from the front driveway. In doing so, I found our old tiki torches from garden street. I cleaned them up, poured citronella oil in them and planted them firmly in the ground by the hot tub. That night, when Danae and I went out to relax in the hot water, we admired what a good job the torches were doing in keeping the mosquitoes away compared to the days before without the torches. The following day I went outside to do some hot tub maintenance in the late afternoon. The torches were not lit, and yet, no mosquitoes. I mentioned this to Danae and she said, come to think of it, there were no bugs up on the hill, either.

Last night, around 6:55, we went out to the hot tub, no torches and waited for the bats to emerge. I thought I saw one buzz by the front of the house, but I couldn’t be certain. What I can be certain of is the absence of mosquitoes and that can only mean one thing, that the bats are back. I am now adding bats to my list of newts and banana slugs as the true faeries of Faeriewood Hill.

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