Come on Over!

Everybody noticed it. The cleaner skies, the quiet, the lull in traffic. The pause, some called it, as we all hunkered down, stayed sheltered, and waited with held breath to see what “safety” might look like. It was the surprise silver lining in a very strained and anxious time—not over yet, not by months—but as humans and their machinery retreated, wild animals began to creep and then saunter into the vacated spaces. They must have been there all along, waiting along the margins, hidden by our noise and busyness.

There are images online about wild goats with impressive headgear taking over Welsh towns, of wild boars trotted uninhibitedly through streets and rooting in gardens, wild buffalo, foxes and coyotes, elephants, monkeys, penguins turning up where you don’t expect to see them, and even a sea lion pressing its nose against a shop window in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was heartening to many that even in these dark and dreary times Nature could rebound and startle us with hope and thoughts of regeneration. Whether at our behest or happenstance and opportunistic, wild animals were asserting their right to spaces we humans had assumed were ours alone.

We are not alone—and never have been. It’s good to be reminded. And good to coexist not just with other humans, as crucial as that is, but with all beings: animals, birds, trees, moss, insects. Inconvenient or not. Everybody welcome? It’s a goal, a thought.

Who lives here? Somebody is making this their home. They are welcome too.

Well before the pandemic tamed the traffic, deer have inhabited my neighborhood. Our streets dead-end into the high banks of the Deschutes River estuary, now captured by Capitol Lake, but still wooded and crisscrossed by narrow trails made by many creatures. The deer come up and wander the streets and gardens, favoring roses and other tender and tasty bits laid out like a smorgasbord for their pleasure. Coyotes, raccoons, and sometimes foxes slip through alleyways and live largely unobserved but unmistakably present. Birds are abundant and living their complicated lives, season by season. All woven together rubbing shoulders, so to speak, or playing out the ancient rituals of prey and predator.

Deer are very much at home here, walking down the street in broad daylight, people outside, no cares at all.

We replanted much of our space here with native plants and leave tangles of vegetation for cover, put up birdfeeders, and keep the birdbath fresh. Our Welcome mat for wildlife is out! We humbly revel in signs that our way station has found some notice among the locals.

Sometimes the deer eat things we thought we had planted for ourselves. We stand corrected!
This is the first year the deer have sampled our hydrangea. But luckily they don’t seem to have relished the taste.
Deer love chard, apparently. Luckily it grows back and we’ve been able to enjoy it too.

I would like to here praise my favorite New York Times contributing writer, Margaret Renkl, who recently posted this essay and said everything better that I was attempting to communicate. She is an inspiration! I wish she lived nearby.

4 thoughts on “Come on Over!

  1. During the first few months of the pandemic, I kept thinking about the birds and other wildlife at Nisqually NWR and knowing they were enjoying a human-free existence for nesting and other activities. It made me smile.

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  2. We humans certainly take up a lot of the landscape. I hope we can retain some of the insights we’ve gained from this painful time and come back to a “new normal” that is more expansive and inclusive. It felt like our gardens and trees were breathing better this year, the growth and blooms were fantastic. Food for thought?

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  3. A beautiful reminder Anne. Of course you are right. “We are not alone…inconvenient or not.” Some days I’m more in the inconvenient camp with certain critter neighbors. Like the squirrels or the bunnies. Other days it is a privilege to be a quiet happy observer of the nature around us.
    I’ve managed to grow several pumpkins for the first time ever, and one morning noticed little teeth marks on one of them. The internet says squirrels are the culprit. As a deterrent, I put out our bobble head owl to scare them away. This morning, my husband saw the bunnies practically dancing all around the bobbing owl as a taunt. Take that human!

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  4. That is hilarious! Well, up to a point. Chard grows back but pumpkins…no. Still, I hope it gave you both a good laugh which in these times is almost as precious as a hand-pollinated and very much cosseted pumpkin. I haven’t decided how to feel about rats…which overrun this old neighborhood. We are all works in progress!

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