Tag Archives: wildness

December 18th

December 18th noonish

Cloudy, rained heavily earlier

The sun seems to be swallowed and we’re stuck in a gray phase. Feeling hungry for bright, warm sun, but this warmish drizzle and dark sky will have to suffice. It did snow a little tiny bit yesterday, which delighted Rev to no end. Winter is clearly his favorite season and he can play with snow and ice for hours, crunching around in his little boots and cracking up the ice that covers our small puddles and the sides of the creeks. His favorite treat right now is taking a walk to get hot chocolate from the neighborhood coffee shop, so we did that yesterday morning in the snow, and today in the rain, and both times it seemed to be the greatest adventure, even though it’s just a short trip around the block.

Wil teaches ecology  and wilderness survival classes at a property just across the Susquehanna on the york side. Awhile back, a hunter set up a trail cam along one of the little forested patches that criss crosses through the property. A few mornings ago Wil woke me up with an email from a friend, asking if he thought one of the photos captured showed a gray fox. Half asleep, I glanced at the picture and sure enough it was a coyote!

We know they’re here in the area- there have been a few sightings and some sign found, and our highly developed area offers a large array of edges between urban, farm, and wild habitats that the Eastern coyote tends to love. But to see a photo of one hanging out in the same place wil teaches? That feels like a gift of the highest degree. In a landscape that often feels maddeningly neutered, proof of a wild canine roaming these lands kindles a spark in me that sometimes I fear may already have gone out.

a page from my nature journal. Can you tell I’m in love with color? by Natasha

Nov. 13th

Nov. 13th

12:06 am, full moon, sunny and warm, 60’s, and chilly at night, 40’s

The moon will be at it’s fullest just before sunrise on this night. Closer to earth than it has been since 1948, almost 70 years ago, when I stepped out to look for it a few hours ago, it startled me as I turned to the eastern horizon, it was that bright. Orion was there too, and the seven sisters, flickering in vividly clear sky, and more visible than usual in the city haze of light pollution. I remember other nights, under clearer and darker skies, spent outside, watching the skymap turn slowly overhead, watching the full moon track across the sky like a beacon, bright as a lighthouse calling all the ships home.

Here we can see only a few stars, the brightest and closest, and they are familiar as old friends. Standing on the front step, chilly with no coat staring at the sky it feels like I could be anywhere, city or forest, mountain, desert, or sea.

Yesterday we had a fire in the backyard just before dusk, in the steel fire pit we found a few months ago on trash night, and I was struck by the same feeling. That we could have been anywhere, at any point in time. We listened to the birds calling their goodnights, and watched the sun slip down into the cement canyons of the city streets and the world felt wild and abandoned, like we were the last holdouts in a city that was long ago reduced to rubble. The salvaged fire pit worked perfectly, holding our small fire made of Wil’s scrap wood in its welcoming arms, and the three of us sat around watching the flames and talking until Rev got chilly and we moved inside.

We saw this beautiful kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) earlier in the week at a local pond. While we watched, he scooped a minnow out of the water and flew up to a low hanging willow branch where he proceeded to pound the fish against the branch until it was dead, and then he ate it! by natasha20170302_121738


First blog post


Nov. 11th

The fall is extra warm this year and the leaves are extra bright. The sun shines through them at an impossible angle so that you must squint to see the person you are talking to, or the color of the traffic lights. The yellow of the gingko floors me. Caught underneath in a gust of wind the leaves are a waterfall; I am a thirsty traveller desperate for a drink.

This morning I made a point to clean up the yard. In the thick and humid of mosquito season the tiny patch of green was sacrificed to the dogs; the only ones willing to brave such conditions. The city mosquitoes are vicious and relentless, in the height of the summer worse than many of the wilder areas we’ve been in. Mostly they are Asian Tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus), a transplant from southeast asia with a penchant for mammal blood and a willingness to feed throughout the day, not just during the reliable dusk and dawn business hours of our native mosquitoes. With several frosts under this season’s belt, it is finally safe to go out there again, and I am glad.

In the early spring Wil harvested three small logs from a neglected scrap of forest near the city’s edge. He wanted them for a project he was working on, but I ended up co-opting them for seats for the kids. Really, they just ended up laying dormant and the grass grew up around them and they were forgotten for a large part of the summer and fall.

Today I rolled one over and was shocked to discover a red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) hiding underneath! She was sluggish from the cooler temperatures, but warmed up in the palm of my cupped hand and wriggled around a bit. We settled her back under the log and left it where it was. A few minutes later Revel picked up a brick and there were two more, tiny sized, in their black phase and squiggling all over in a nice sunny spot! All told we probably found six or seven, of varying sizes, and several little piles of eggs too. A promise of more to come.

So amazing, how when we moved here in the spring the yard was just a patch of sad grass, and after a season of planting perennials and a healthy dose of rampant neglect, a little woodland habitat is blossoming out of nowhere. My heart’s bursting about it, even just sitting here writing this, thinking of nothing turning into something, and those wriggly little amphibians finding a home in our backyard.

A week ago or so there was a huge rainstorm, accompanied by a quick burst of lightning and wind. I had just reached out to close the back door when I heard a huge crack and saw  most of the old silver maple in our neighbor’s backyard come ripping down. He hired a company to come clear the debris and, anticipating future trouble from the other old maple on his property, had that one taken down too. Now there are just two rather tall stumps standing guard, some displaced squirrels and a vague absence of something when I look out our window, the same empty space I sense in my mother now that her cancer is gone.

The squirrels lost a few good nests in those old leafy trees, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they crawl into attics and under roofs looking for a warm place to sleep. Trees are scarce on this end of the block and those of us that care to notice mourn the loss of even one.