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.
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.
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.
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.