“Nature has wit humor, fantasy etc.,” wrote Novalis (1772-1801). “Among animals and plants, one finds natural caricatures.” His observation came to mind last week when I photographed this great blue heron standing watch over a World War II army bunker at the Muir Beach Overlook.

Novalis, by the way, was the nom de plume of Baron Frederich von Hardenberg, who was “one of the greatest early German romantic poets,” to quote The Encyclopedia Americana, and “exerted a strong influence on 19th century romanticism and the neo-romantics of the 20th century.”

In The Novices of Sais (a city in ancient Egypt), Novalis wrote (using the encyclopedia’s translation) that “the secret of nature is to be the fulfilled longing of a loving heart.”

I was reminded of Novalis’ second observation last weekend when I spotted a possum near one of my trees in broad daylight. Possums are mostly nocturnal, and I typically notice them around my cabin long after sunset.

Peeking possum

This possum soon hid behind the tree and began peeking around the trunk at something under my deck. I was naturally curious what that was but didn’t want to disturb the scene.

So I stayed inside, and presently a small, female possum came waddling onto my deck. I immediately recognized her, for most nights she checks my deck for scraps and birdseed, often climbing a lattice in order to drink from a birdbath on my railing.

Sorry, not interested!

The male hesitantly joined her on my deck, but there was nothing to eat and she showed little interest in him, so the timid male sadly waddled back into the grass. Courtship in nature — as among us humans — is seldom easy.

100_1384.jpgAlso like us humans, much of the animal world in West Marin was sweltering in this week’s “heat wave.”

Whenever the days get as hot as they did Monday and Tuesday, the horses in Toby Giacomini’s pasture next to mine go splashing in his stockpond.

But to repeat Novalis’ observation, “Among animals … one finds natural caricatures,” and I occasionally see a horse immerse itself in the stockpond as if for a baptism.

Nor is that comparison as far-fetched as it may sound.


“If … horses … had hands or were able to draw with their feet and produce the works which men do,” wrote the Greek philosopher Xenophanes (570-475 BC), “horses would draw the forms of gods like horses.”