Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Corner of the World

Rhododendron blooming along "Fox Avenue."

In my little corner of the world everything is exceedingly green, with fingertips of soft green growth on the branches of hemlocks and yews, and fresh green buds on the pachysandra and ivy. This area of the garden is "Fox Avenue," because it's where I often see red foxes, masters of camouflage, and their cubs emerging at dusk. I never see the entire family together, just Dad on his own, or Mom and the cubs or just Mom and one cub as they wend their way along a stone wall that provides a sense of security because it's draped with hemlock branches. At various times throughout the day and now, into early evening, the cubs follow their parents to learn All Things Fox.

It's such a privilege to have them raising their young here, but I have to be careful about letting the cats out now. Whenever Mr. Groundhog decides to stroll out onto the lawn for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I know it's safe for the girls to go out. Since Mr. G. is one of the items on the Fox Menu, his relaxed posture is a reliable "all clear" signal. Another important signal is the calling of crows. Along with other Corvids (Blue Jays), crows will harass the foxes with loud and relentless caws to keep their fledglings safe. This early warning system is highly reliable and helps enforce my "better safe than sorry" system.

Alas, cat outings are not what they were when Rachmaninoff, the Man of the Forest, was in his prime. He lived to be outdoors and was a kindly and protective presence among wild turkeys, groundhogs and other wildlife. Now, almost a year since his passing, more wildlife have chosen my little corner of the world as their haven. The reason seems related to the loss of forested land, less than a half a mile away, which was cleared last fall for construction of a municipal water administration building. This land sits alongside a town reservoir and was prime habitat for wildlife. The loss of it displaced who knows how many wildlife families. No one but me and a handful of other people seem to care. I wish I did not have to witness these losses, each contributing to a greater one. I take some comfort in what Gandalf said in The Fellowship of the Ring:

“So do I, and so do all who live to see such times..."

With so much wildlife about and with the season of birth in full swing, I am careful to keep an eye on my girls, both skilled hunters. I often end their outings abruptly to spare the lives of chipmunks, baby bunnies, young squirrels and whatever else they may find tempting. Well-fed cats consider it sport to harm these creatures and I don't encourage them. Their collars are festooned with bells and their outings are supervised and sporadic. They are learning that some gifts are not appreciated and must be returned immediately.

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