Wednesday, March 27, 2013

suburban skin-crawl

I live in suburbia, about 15 miles outside of Washington, D.C.  It's not the wild West around here, nor is it the Twilight Zone, but it's had its moments. 

Years ago, when I was a paranoid new mother, I saw Mr. Fox come traipsing through my yard for the first time. Two-week old Gareth lay vulnerable in his stroller nearby--protected only by a thin veil of mosquito netting.  Recognizing imminent danger, I scrambled for cover, leaving Mr. Fox with nothing but the jingle of a new baby rattle hanging in the air like bear bells. 

I grew accustomed to Mr. Fox soon enough, but then, while sitting with teensy little Gareth on the deck one day, a pileated wood pecker swooped in and, in a matter of minutes, violently reduced a nearby stump to rubble. 

Have you seen one of these Pterodactyl-like birds up close?  He was just feet away from us.  Just a few seconds of this far-less dramatic video can at least help you imagine bird, beak and baby in such close proximity. 

If the eye-threatening beak of a ginormous woodpecker doesn't creep you out, how about this murder of crows? (yes, "murder" is the fancy word for "flock" when you're talking crows).

Are you thinking Hitchcock yet?  You should be, because that's just a crafty bit of foreshadowing I tell you.

We learned quickly that the the cacophonous racket made by a murder of crows signals the presence of Mr. Fox.  One early morning, as Steve and I lay slumbering in our bed, the squawking out on our lawn reached a feverish pitch. I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.  Away to the window I flew in a flash.  Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.  The moon on the breast of the new fallen CROW, gave a luster of gore to the objects below.  What to my wondering eyes did appear? 

You guessed it.  A murder of crow.  It lay splayed out on it's back, wings askance and curled up slightly at the tips.  I swear they were 3 feet across.  Body cavity: empty.

(And yes, I realize that Twas the Night Before Christmas is not Hitchcock.  I'm telling you, you just have to wait for it.)

Poor Mr. Crow.


So...we had a predatory fox, a prehistoric looking woodpecker, and birds in Hitchcockian numbers.  Was that enough?


One day a silver ferret stuck its head out from under our deck.  It wasn't scary, but WHY was there a ferret under my deck? 

Then there were the RATS.  The first one we saw was the size of a ground hog.  When it walked from my neighbor's yard into mine, she and I gasped at the rolls of fat that rippled down its back in waves.  Would a rat like that hurt a child?!

Despite being a paranoid new mother, I remained an outdoorsy kind of girl, so I rejected the idea that my yard could be a dangerous place to play.  By the time Gareth became an older toddler, I'd collected my confidence enough to let him wander into the wild by himself.  What could happen?

One day as he played alone in the sandbox, Bambi's dad, with his monster set of antlers, appeared from around the side of the house. 

I watched in horror from the kitchen window as he galloped straight towards Gareth with his thundering hooves. I began running in time to see him swerve, jump over the woodpile, and disappear into the neighbor's yard--as if I'd dreamt him.

Did we live in crazy land?

I thought maybe.  But over time? No.

Since those first few years, we have settled in.  The population of deer has grown while their dramatic impressions have diminished.  These more sweet looking but garden wrecking creatures visit often.

We have other non-threatening wildlife as well.  On many days, hawks come a-hunting.

Bunnies come a-hopping.

Termites come a-swarming. 
those white dots on the log are termites leaving the nest

Baby birds come a-feeding.

All of this harmony in nature convinced us that our home occupies just another yard in suburbia. 

Until this morning, when Steve took the dog out for a pee and found this.

I told you to wait for it.


  1. What



    Behind on your blog and needed that laugh!!

  2. Either you live in Guam or someone had a pig roast? Wowza. Never have I seen a foot like that in my backyard.

    (We have foxes in our neighborhood too. One time, while I was walking my dog, I saw one flash across the street. It did an about face, sat on the curb across the street and WATCHED us. I thought my dog was fox food. Shivering, I ducked into neighbor's backyard to hide us behind his recycling bin. Forever! Curious fox had us held hostage w recyclables for nearly twenty min. Dog and I came resurfaced a panting nervous wreck. We were such suburban dorks.)

    1. i would love to know what mr. fox was thinking as you cowered behind that recycle bin!! i too have encountered him on walks. the first time gareth was an infant in the stroller. the fox and i both stopped in the middle of the road and just stared at each other. he won, because i pivoted that stroller and high-tailed it home. they are BOLD! i admit, however, that i've gotten used to them over the years and like watching them lope through the yard (or maybe it's just that the kids are teens now and stand little chance of becoming fox food!).