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The Woods

The Woods, a Meditation on Nature Close at Hand

    The bobcat slinked across our back lawn yesterday at 4 PM.  Yes, its tail was bobbed.  I estimate the wild feline was close to forty inches in length and twenty-five inches high.  It effortlessly leapt to the top of our four foot fence bordering the preserve and disappeared into the woods. 

    People have congratulated us on the rustic setting to our bricked backyard terrace.  Getting in touch with nature is a romantic notion most of us nurture in our souls. 

    The bobcat's visit gives me pause.

    I assume the big kitty was foraging for supper.  What if - this is the question which grips our household - Tappy (our twenty pound bichon friese) had been sitting on the terrace when kitty arrived?   

    "Nature," observed Alfred Lord Tennyson, is "red in tooth and claw."  Children and a lot of others, however, get all fuzzy about the furry world when reading, say, "Winnie the Pooh."  Or watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. 

    The reality lies somewhere between Tennyson and Milne.  Exactly where, I'm not sure. 

    There's the lovable nature we live with, the white dog that will eat anything I eat, including asparagus and oranges; the little beggar whose favorite perch is by my side when I sit at the table, searching my every move for a dropped morsel, most of them intentional.  She also sits sentinel by the kitchen door with a vista to the woods.  She barks at everything that moves.  And  lots of things move. Birds, rabbits, deer, squirrels, and chipmunks.  One night in the dead of winter a couple of years ago another kitty, this one black with white stripes, emerged from beneath the porch.

    Twice the next door neighbor has phoned us in the early morning to worry about Tappy (the little white bobcat bait). She had heard the howl of coyotes and the bleating of a dying animal, and wanted to be reassured it wasn't our bichon.  It wasn't.  We've also heard horror stories about fisher cats and their fondness for pussy cats.  And Barbara, out for a morning walk, spied a very mangy dog walking down the sidewalk; only it wasn't a dog but one of the aforefeared coyotes.

    Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, found a gingerbread house, and nearly got eaten by a witch.  There are, I now know for sure, creatures in our woods that bite.  But the ones that give me the worst fits are the very tiny ones, so small I cannot see them without magnifiers.  Ticks, deer ticks.  Mosquitoes we've battled to a draw with our machine that lures them in and then sucks the life out of them, leaving us with a tiny bin of desiccated insect wings.  But ticks find and feed on Tappy even though she is armed with repellent.

    Nature, a poor imitation of Ogden Nash could observe, is a lousy thing with every itch and sting.

    The biggest irritation Nature has recently visited on us scars our front lawn.  Rivulets of dirt trace across its surface.  A mole.  Maybe moles. I've salted the lawn with a chemical said to be repugnant to the miserable little insectivores.  The landscaper offered the services of a mole hunter; but $250 seems a trifle steep.  I'll wait until spring.  Then I'll rake out the dirt rivulets and reseed the patches, hoping that, in the absence of snow cover, the pests will go deeper in search of grubs.

    Or maybe we could catch the wild tabby, chain it to the birch tree and hope it will lunch on moles.




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