Sunday, November 4, 2012

This Girl's Nature

While growing up in a New England city, nature wasn't really my thing. I generally didn't like to be outdoors -- breezes would tangle my hair and blow it into my face and mouth and bugs were gross and seemed to be everywhere. It seemed like every time I made an effort (or was forced) to be outside, something unpleasant happened that made me retreat to my bedroom and the comfort of a book. Like the time when I was maybe six, picking up the green flowery things that fell into the driveway from the trees and making little bouquets, and ants crawled up my bare arms. Once, when I was eight or nine years old, my mom sent me outside to bring my bike in from the yard before it rained, and a bird pooped directly onto my head. The summer when I was around 10 and walking barefoot in the back yard, there was the horrific incident of stepping in dog poo which subsequently squished between my toes, causing me to swear off going barefoot everywhere except the beach and quite possibly launching my longstanding love affair with footwear.

Sometimes, the outdoor unpleasantness happened to someone else and was gratefully embraced as a cautionary tale and excuse for me to stay inside. This was the case when my brother and the other neighborhood boys were building a fort in the woods, and he stepped on a nail that went through the sole of his sneaker and into his foot. His trip to the ER and the resultant tetanus shot were enough inspiration for me to avoid the dangers of the outdoors in general and anything construction related in particular. Shoe-clad concrete paved trips to the air-conditioned comfort of the public library were perfect for me. Others could endure the messiness outside while I was inside reading about it. The fifteen minute walk to the library and time spent outside while shopping downtown was as much of the great outdoors as I could handle.

Family tent camping trips were the ultimate outdoor torture. To my inwardly-focused, pre-teen mind, our family vacations spent in a fabric dwelling for a week at a time were specifically designed by my parents for the sole purpose of torturing me. They might have claimed we didn't take vacations in proper buildings such as hotels like normal families because we couldn't afford it, but I thought that was just a flimsy cover story for their sadistic plots. Thankfully, my aversion to the outdoors did not include the beach, which I loved. The coast of southern Maine was the payoff for enduring the horrors of family camping and the central shower and bathroom building. The beach was an entirely different world. Of course, while there, I mostly laid on our woolen US Army blanket and read a book, so even that version of "outdoors" bore a marked similarity to the comfort of laying on my bed at home, reading a book.

A family trip to New York City during April school vacation when I was in high school (and during which we actually stayed in a hotel!) helped launch my version of my 'dream home' -- a glass coated high-rise apartment in an energetic city where everything I didn't yet know I needed was attainable with a quick walk or ride by taxi or subway. When I bothered to think about the future (which was not often as I was usually too busy suffering through the tortures of the current day) it was the opposite of the "American Dream" single family detached house with white picket fence, 2.5 children, a dog, a cat and a four door family vehicle. Maturity, reality, and self-imposed limitations led to a scaled down Plan B version featuring an exposed brick and beam apartment in Boston or its often overlooked stepsister, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Somewhere along the everchanging path of life, even the small-city localized version of my concrete jungle high-rise fantasy was further scaled, altered and eventually reworked, redirected, and expanded to include an appreciation for the outdoors. Instead of screaming like the stereotypical character in a horror movie upon seeing a spider weaving a web, I now pause and enjoy the work, marvel at the intricacy, and if a camera is available, attempt to capture it in pixels.

Some of the credit for the transition goes to X-Man. He had said he dreamed of being a mountain man, which, at the time, I thought was a more poetic expression. Later, it turned out he really did want to live away from civilization in a remote mountain cave. We spent time walking in the woods, where he taught me how to identify the tracks and droppings of various animals (deer poop is tiny!). We looked at trees and smelled nature. We drove to parks after a snowfall to walk in the quiet woods. We drove around Fort Campbell looking for deer and turkey.

Now, from my little brick ranch at the edge of the woods, not too far from the cave, nature is all around me and I don't even have to try to find it. One of the streets where the dogs and I walk reminds me of those early camping days, but with fondness now, as my previous distaste for it has abated. Most days, flocks of turkeys gather in various yards in the neighborhood and roost in the woods behind my house. Doe and their offspring meander down the driveway en route to nearby yards and a red fox makes its own rounds of visitation. An owl surveys the neighborhood from a branch in an ancient tree, sometimes even in daylight hours.

Pileated Woodpeckers!
In a single Sunday morning, from the comfort of a couch deliberately placed to face the living room picture window, I saw an eight-point buck stroll across the front of the house. He made three passes back and forth through the yard, almost like he was parading for me or looking for something -- possibly the doe that are usually in the area. Meanwhile, inside the house, I was racing from window to window, camera in hand, trying to get a photo of his masculine majesty as the dogs ran back and forth, barking like we were under attack. Two hours later, the massive old tree up near the edge of the road was visited by two of the largest Pileated Woodpeckers I've ever seen, and the first two I've ever seen in my own yard. They circled the tree pecking, as I ran through the house trying to find the bigger zoom lens for the Nikon.

This late-blooming nature girl will miss the deer, turkeys, fox, woodpeckers and owl when the house sells and it's time to move. Hopefully, I can at least get some decent photos of my woodsy cohabitants first.

No comments:

Post a Comment