Nature blog: Heaven at dawn

This post originally appeared on April 2, 2012 on Nature Writing.

During my nature writing class at Chatham University’s MFA program, I had to keep a weekly nature blog. Each of us picked a place and spent thirty minutes in that place each week, and then wrote a blog post about it. I’ve just bought a house and moved away from this place, so I thought reposting these entries would be a good way to celebrate the time I’ve spent there. I’ll tag each one “natureblog2012.”

Eastern redbud blooming

Some kind of pink blooming tree visible through the tangle.

I woke up before the sun, hoping to see it crest over the rows of houses in my neighborhood and wash my yard in red or golden or pink light. Instead, a gray morning greeted me, and all I could see of the sun was a gradual lightening of the sky. Not even a robin or sparrow sang, and I wondered if birds also suffered from cases of the Mondays.

Then, just after seven, all the birds on the hillside seemed to explode into song at once for a few minutes before falling quiet again. A robin kept up his song, and a few other birds chimed intermittently. As I was writing this, the cardinal pair  hopped on top of the wood pile, pecking around together  presumably looking for food. They peeped at each other like my grandparents used to do. The male ate some of the Eastern redbush seeds, then flew away.

The stinging nettle has started coming up at the base of the woodpile. Nettles are apparently good in soup, and I’ve been meaning to try it, but I’ll admit I’m a bit apprehensive about eating something that can raise huge welts on my skin. Supposedly if you pre-boil them, the stingers come out. The tree of heaven sapling grove looks like a tiny palm tree grove, with its developing leaves starting to spread out.

White hyacinth

Another hyacinth from the abandoned yard.

Every spring, I get the itch to garden. And I do garden, albeit in various pots spread across my porch and patio (they seem to multiply every year). I haven’t done much this year, just groomed my potted perennials that started coming up much earlier than usual: a hosta, a bleeding heart, tulips, daffodils, and then a blackberry bush. The mint from last year that I never bothered to compost has come back with a vengeance, and I’m glad its in a pot so it can’t take over anything (but I’m also glad it came back, because it’s delicious in yogurt).

I’ve also got a hemlock sapling and some kind of tree/shrub that I liberated from the empty yard next door (its pot had disintegrated, leaving its roots exposed, and it would have died if I hadn’t re-potted it). My nebby neighbor, the one who thought I was some kind of hooligan, suggested I also take the daffodils from the empty yard before a developer buys the house. I think I’ll leave them. How many daffodils does one person need?

Imaginary Map of My Yard

As a renter with a reasonable landlord who so far doesn’t seem to care what we do as long as it isn’t destructive and as long as our check arrives on time, I could probably work out a deal to clear the hillside and turn part of it into a garden. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for the past several years. But now, as I watch the chickadees chase each other across the back of the yard, I wonder if I still want to.

I can still see the skeleton of a garden here, and I don’t need the whole hillside. Just enough for a small raised bed, and some room for my dogs to sniff around and do their business. If we had our own set of stairs leading up here, I could install a bird feeder, too, and we’d all win.


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