Last night we had a thunder storm. Spectacular lightning! This morning I went out into the yard and found that something had trampled the day lilies in the front yard. Trampled may not be the right word. As a former nature counselor, I would use the word: bedded. Some large creature took shelter under the trees, turned around and around and laid down in the plants. Half the bed of daylilies will not bloom this year. If you live on the edge of a forest, you have to share your yard with critters.
We had critters in southern California. Coyotes jogged down the street. Raccoons sulked in the side yards. For several years, a possum meandered up one side of the yard at 8:00 and down the other side at 10:00. A barn owl lived in the palm tree next door but left his pellets in my yard. And the squirrels drove my dogs crazy. Occasionally I saw quail by the junior high and once or twice a deer in the open space near our home. A rare roadrunner rushed along the hillsides where I ran. If you live in new, dense housing tracts, you have to share your yard with critters. But the critters here are new to us.
The first Saturday in our new home I saw a small fox trot through the leaves on the edge of our property from my office window. A day or two later I saw a small gray creature with a fox tail dart up a fallen tree like a cat. The next day I found red and gray fur on my lawn. I haven’t seen either fox since but I have heard them at night.
Several times we have spotted deer in the woods or in a neighbor’s yard but not in ours. The dogs must keep them away in the day. The squirrels, however, are not intimidated by the pack. They play basketball on my court and frolic on my front lawn. The first time Alvin darted across my driveway, I was excited. But the day the dogs kept running up to my Volvo and sniffing the tires and the hood, I began to get paranoid. What if the chipmunks were in my engine? What if they ate the wiring harness? I started the engine, checked all the engine lights, and drove slowly up the driveway.
I had to buy a new bird book because I could not recognize some of the birds. Was that a loon or a duck? Ravens are here but not as many as in SoCal. Robins hunt for worms in the grass. A flock of turkeys march through. A pair of Cardinals spent a month in the trees out front. Woodpeckers are easy to hear in the morning. So are the Canadian Geese that do not seem to be heading north at all.
Then we have the slimy creatures: cockroaches, spiders, mosquitos and other unidentifiable creatures. I’ll confess that for a few years I had my yard in SoCal sprayed for ants, which eliminated other insects. When I stopped, I planted for hummingbirds and butterflies and got lizards. Here I have butterflies. I have huge black ants. Lifting up a rock, I found a whole world of life: slugs, beetles, and a salamander. While mending my stone wall, I saw a toad and found a snake skin.
Being in a new state, a new landscape opens up a new world. This may sound like some type of Transcendental New Age religion mantra, but, truthfully, you see what you notice. It wasn’t as if my old world had no critters. I just took them for granted. If you open yourself to a new world, you see the world differently. Mothers learn this as they watch their children develop. What seems ordinary becomes extraordinary. What you take for granted can be new and exciting if you only take notice.