A posting from Julie Neighbors Porter

Pileated woodpeckerNature…

I think I may have mentioned once or twice that I live near the woods, and that I roam the pathways through the forest often. I have also waxed poetic about natures’ ability to balance beauty with, well, I wouldn’t call it ugliness, but a dark side, and the knowledge that this is neccesary. What I didn’t mention was that man upsets the balance and it’s extremely annoying to me. And dear reader, eventually there will be a tiny story in this, but I have to just get this out first.

And, okay, maybe I’m being a little selfish, but I wish to hell that once I moved out here (years and years ago), everyone else would have just stayed put. No need to move to the edge of rural life, people. We’re fine without you. Really. But because it’s pretty and bucolic, and because Microsoft is twenty minutes away, we have a new neighborhood going up about every, oh, forty minutes. And we don’t do it like the rest of the country. Oh no, not us. We like things to be interesting. So instead of laying out and building the infrastructure first (like roads ), we build 250 new houses and then smack ourselves upside the head and say “Whoa…damn, dude…better put a road in.” And because every frikkin’ house has a Hummer, a Lexus, and a Jag (oh, that’s right, don’t forget the nanny’s 1981 toyota), our little country roads are clogged as bad as the arteries of a regular at McDonalds.

And I hate the fact that some pretty awesome greenery is being replaced by ugly big-ass houses. If you’re going to clear-cut a forest and displace all the creatures living in it, at least have the courtesy to build something that is aesthetically pleasing! These 8,000-10,000 square foot monstrosities (built on 15,000 sq. foot lots) pugnaciously push up from the earth, sizing up their neighbors like men lined up at a urinal. Because let me tell you, it is all about size. There’s no other way to explain the bad taste that goes into the design. Most of these houses are an appalling jumble of the worst of country French, Mediterranean, and Northwest style.

And so they come…hordes of them. They shop for their homes in the bright light of day when the flowers are blooming, and the hot-air balloons drifting overhead cast an idyllic fairytale glow to the picture. But do your research, folks, and don’t come crying to me when the sun goes down and the bats begin their evening frolic, or you’re pulled out of a sound sleep with the blood-freezing cries of the coyote pack. Don’t grieve for the azaleas that the deer breakfasted on, and really, don’t turn your bleary, red, dark-circled eyes to me and complain about the raucous, deafening sounds of the toads during mating season. And for your own good…stay out of the woods. Walk the streets as the other good residents do; where there are no rocks to trip you, no dirt to sully your shoes, no creatures lurking in the brush, no edge.

(and that would be the segue to my story)

Nature Bites – The Sequel

Bouie-the-wonder-dog and I set off for a walk just before sunset. We like that time because it’s usually quiet in the woods, so he can wander to his heart’s content, chasing squirrels, rabbits, and figments of his imagination. And then there’s the game that we play. Bouie likes to roll in horse crap, and not just any horse crap…it has to be the right age and texture, combining pungeance with the perfect viscosity to adhere to his coat. I prefer him sans horse feces, thus the game. When he finds the perfect pile, he looks to see if I’m distracted and then off he goes, rolling gleefully. A smeared green coat, and it’s another victory for Bouie. The score is about even, on the whole.

On this particular evening, we enjoyed the waning sun and deepening shadows as the earth took on an intensity in color, echoed the vibrancy in the twilight birdsong, and then a hush as the day transitioned toward night. The gloaming. (God, I’ve always loved that word, and that time of day.)

I started watching a beetle of enormous proportion emerge from under a golden maple leaf, scurrying first one way, then another. I walked through a stand of alders, then into a deeper part of the wood. Bouie wandered off in search of something he smelled. I rounded a turn in the path, and a woman waved her arm at me, saying in a high-pitched breathless voice. “Something is following us…I don’t know what!”

She was carrying a shivering miniature Doberman, and on her heels was a handsome, dark-haired man. She was thin, well-coiffed and wearing the latest yoga gear carrying a price tag of about $300.

She was the one in charge…the brooding british husband and dark dobie looked as though they had been ordered from the ‘Sharper Image’ catalogue as the perfect “accoutrements for the upper class business woman.”

“There it is!” she shrilled.

“It’s a barred owl”, I said. “They’re out this time of day.” With a wing span about four to five feet, this creature looks terribly fearsome as it swoops in, even though you may logically know that at only four pounds, it can’t take you anywhere. It landed in a nearby tree and looked at our small group, and the woman said, “Well, what does he want? Why is he following us?” She emphasized her words just as a small child does.

“He wants his dinner,” and I pointed at her dog.

She shrank back from me, horrified. She then sniffed and said petulantly (and I am not making this up), “Why can’t the owl go after the bunnies instead of our delicately bred canines?”

Now, I wanted to laugh, I wanted to explain to her that the owl could not, in all likelihood, distinguish much between her $100 a pound pup and the free-range rabbit, but at that moment, my delicately bred canine appeared, trotting happily to join us. As he came closer, it bacame apparent that there was something amiss. My refined creature was covered head to tail in horse dung. I was never prouder.

She wrinkled her nose and I told her not to worry, the owl would come after my dog, not hers. She looked like she wanted to argue the point…I mean, how could her dog not be the one chosen?

So Bouie and I started on our way, and like the Eye of Sauron, the owl swiveled his head, honed in on Bouie, and took flight towards us. “He’s white!” I shouted in explanation, “the owl can see him!” Relieved that it wasn’t a matter of class, she turned and walked on.

I waved the owl off with both arms as he swooped in. He followed us all the way to the edge of the wood, him swooping at Bouie, me jumping and waving him off, and Bouie dancing around like it was a game – a strange little ballet of predator, prey, and protector.

The woods exit into a meadow with a small pond on one side. (I know you won’t believe me..it sounds made up, but I swear-to-god it’s true) At the pond was a doe standing guard, her two young ones drinking at the waters edge in the waning light.

We just stood and watched, quietly letting them be.

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