I believe in driveway moments. Not the NPR kind, where you sit in your car bespelled till that compelling story ends—though I have my share of those. I mean the things I see when I traverse my driveway to get the mail, pull weeds, or do some other mundane task.
You should know, first off, that I live in a small town, so small it doesn’t even have a stoplight. That town is in the mountains, and my house is on the edge of town next to a redwood forest. My driveway is long and steep, with hulking trees on either side. I never know what I’ll see as I near the top—but every day, some small encounter causes me to celebrate our natural world, and reinforces my belief that we must share this planet with its other residents.
Some mornings it’s a gang of deer, wondering whether I, too, have come to munch my neighbor’s roses. Moist noses twitch as their great dark eyes stare, and stare, and stare, reminding me of a seed I carried home from the Pacific coast of Mexico. Emblazoned with a round, unblinking patch of black, the locals call it ‘ojo de venado’—deer’s eye, and it’s easy to see why.
Other times it might be tracks, like the mountain lion prints I saw in snow one Sunday morning when I went to fetch the paper. It had snowed all night, and huge bright flakes were still falling, but the pugmarks were crisp — telling me the cat was somewhere close, maybe even watching as I knelt down in my bathrobe to inspect the sign. I retreated to the house, and let the paper sit for a few hours.
In spring it could be daffodils, a sudden blaze amidst the bracken, or a bird’s nest with a secret trove. In summer, lacy curls of peeling bark bedeck the madrones, exposing silky skin beneath. Fall brings acorns, and the crazed rut of blacktail deer.
This day it is a tiny corpse that anchors me: a hummingbird, lying in the middle of the driveway. Barely 2” long and lighter than belief, it had an iridescent bib of hammered copper and a flashy chartreuse crown. I carried it down the drive and laid it under a Spanish lavender, bursting with wild purple spikes, debating whether to bury it or not. I decided not to, so it might nourish some other animal in need.
The essence of hummingbird—all motion and commotion—was long gone. But this tiny bird still cast a spell on me, as much as any deer or daffodil or footprint: every driveway moment affirms life, and cries out to be observed and treasured. I believe we must hear this cry, and do our best to answer.