The wild life

Posted 6/5/24

It started with a mess of stringy desiccated weeds hanging above the doorframe and meandering down to the threshold. I cleaned it up and within hours it was back. It didn’t take long to realize …

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The wild life


It started with a mess of stringy desiccated weeds hanging above the doorframe and meandering down to the threshold. I cleaned it up and within hours it was back. It didn’t take long to realize that a mother robin had decided our busy front door was the perfect spot to house her chicks. I considered putting a sign above the door directing visitors to the side entrance. But how to retrain my ancient husband who trots out the front door twice a day with our two little schnauzers for their perambulations? It would never work, I decided. Easier to train a mother robin.

She doesn’t seem to mind our active household. Neither our exuberant grandchild playing on the patio, nor our son on his motorcycle, nor barking dogs deter her. More detritus collects, weeds grow up from seeds deposited by Mother Robin. We enter and exit as ever. 

Soon, small beaks can be seen above the nest at mealtime. One, then two, maybe three. It is hard to tell. Such a small nest. Mother Robin keeps as busy as us, pursuing worms with her keen sense of hearing. Imagine being able to hear a worm crawling underground. She is rarely seen at the nest itself, only flittering away as we open the door or approach the entrance. But I come to recognize her, waiting on the lawn or in the flower bed, with a wiggly worm in her beak.

On the other side of the house, grackles outnumber the songbirds we fill the feeder for. A mother raccoon has nested in the maple tree on the riverbank in a spot where its twin trunks converge. One day I see a kit at the base of the tree in daytime, looking lost. Mother is nowhere to be seen and probably sleeping. The kit tries to climb the tree but it is unable. It may have been injured falling from its nest. A rear leg seems to drag a bit. The kit vocalizes but eventually ambles awkwardly to the riverbank. I don’t see it again. A city-dweller may have tried to capture and rehabilitate it. But I have learned to let nature be, knowing only the strong survive in the wild.

That knowledge doesn’t keep me from rescuing a turtle in the middle of a road, or braking for squirrels, my arch-enemy in the garden. My heart breaks a little when I see a fawn or doe dead on a roadside, victim of a hit and run. Most summers I have been privy to an encounter with a bear, sometimes with cubs, crossing a country road. I am always in awe. Their deep dark fur, their lumbering, graceful gait, their disinterest in my species makes me love them all the more. I consider these encounters a kind of blessing. I slow down when approaching those places I have seen them in the past. 

One summer in a tiny bungalow we owned, a bear woke me in the early morning by mauling the bird feeder near my kitchen window. It crossed the deck and its smell wafted through my open window, a deep musty smell I was not familiar with but easily identified as coming from the wild. It gracefully sidestepped a three-legged plant stand as it crossed in front of my bedroom. I was the wild woman by that time, grabbing a pot from the stove and a wooden spoon and banging away, yelling at the confident bear to “Go away!” 

These encounters amass over a lifetime to a reverence akin to faith. Twenty years have come and gone, with an eagle pair raising chicks near us. Most years two are fledged from their nest, learning to balance on a tree limb 60 feet above the ground, spreading their wings before the ultimate flight that will determine their viability in the wild. One year a chick fell to the ground after fireworks nearby. It was fortunate to have a raptor rehab take it in. 

I see four robin chicks in the nest above our door now, their tiny yellow beaks peeking out for food. I show my granddaughter every time we approach, lifting her up to observe them growing as she is. These early days of summer are abundant with wildlife. Observe it and wonder. Be grateful as I am to be a human, housed and fed, warm and dry in snow and rain.

wild, life, Mother Robin, river muse


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