February 28, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Rancho del Cielo

To write my column this morning, I sat down in my parents' octagonal dining room, five plate-glass sides of which open to the oak trees, pond and wildlife surrounding the Rancho del Cielo. Allowing myself a few moments of reflection to come up with a topic for today's writing, I watched the birds and squirrels conduct their morning foraging outside. (As I write these very words, in fact, a grey squirrel just found a choice nut right outside the window.) It dawned on me that I need look no further than the ecosystem right under my nose to find inspiration.

Behind the house, the land slopes sharply downhill to the highway far below. Along this ridgeline stands a grove of oaks, framing the 20-mile view of the surrounding countryside. In the backyard, next to the oaks, my parents built a small pond, complete with waterfall, which has probably contributed in no small measure to the attraction of so much wildlife.

This morning, a foggy mist surrounds everything, adding an air of mystery to the already magical view. I have been here many times, but I can honestly say this is the first time I've really stopped to watch all of the activity just outside the window. Birds of every size and stripe flit about in a frenzy of activity. Though I'm no birdwatcher, I can name a few of them... blue jays, robins, even a hawk (and so many more that I can't name). Grey squirrels hop about, busily rummaging for food. I watched the one I saw a moment ago scale a nearby tree and scamper from branch to branch till it disappeared down the trunk of another oak halfway down the hill.

As I drove in at dusk last night, I came upon several deer, who just stared at me from 10 feet away as I stopped to watch them. And had I arrived but 15 minutes earlier, I could have seen the flock of wild turkeys that waddled through the yard (before being scared off by Charlee, my parents' vicious Shih Tzu). They usually come around once a day, so I'll probably see them tonight.

Whenever I come up here for a visit, the scenery instills a sense of peace in me. Rolling hills (currently, emerald green rolling hills) dotted with oak trees as far as the eye can see offer a welcome change from strip malls and concrete. The name of this place—literally, "Ranch of the Heavens"—fits it well. But this morning, I am reminded that there is much more than just a scenic view. Look closer and you'll find an abundance of life that you'll never again see in the big city.


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Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Daily Chuckle:

Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

Today's Column
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2/27: It's the "Fast" Lane, Stupid
2/26: Killer TV
2/25: Please Bend Over
2/24: Morning Glory
2/23: Peacemongering
2/22: "Home" in the City of Angels
2/21: Capri Memories
2/20: A Man is a God in Ruins
2/19: No Man is an Island
2/18: Iraq's "Cooperation"
2/17: Failure to Communicate
2/16: Cold City
2/15: Man-Eaters of Tsavo
2/14: Valentine Gems
2/13: Grab Bag
2/12: The End is Near
2/11: And the Winner Is...
2/10: Exploration is Risky Business
2/9: Staphylococcus
2/8: Morning Cup of Kofi
2/7: Game Over
2/6: The Eagle Never Landed
2/5: Pope: Potter No Problem
2/4: Time for Another Rewrite
2/3: A Matter of Opinions
2/2: Suicidal Bravado
2/1: Godspeed, Columbia

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