I took this photo last Saturday while standing under the protective canopy outside the door, because I was so struck by the beauty of the scene. It was absolutely pouring rain, which obscures the forest behind the trees you can see clearly.
Looks like a park, doesn’t it?
I live a half-mile north of the Interstate (I-10) and the city limits, and about two blocks from the major north-south highway (U.S. 27) through Tallahassee. So how, you might ask, is such an urban forest of 11 acres allowed to stand? That’s a long story.
But every day that I come home from work, I take U.S. 27 to a tiny street called Ray Road (one block long) into my neigborhood and the first thing I see when I turn onto that street is a wall of trees straight ahead. A side view of the forest. And no matter how stressful my day has been, I am instantly calmed down. There is no medication that would work better, and anyhow, medication wears off. The forest never does.
I then take another tiny street (Laris Drive), a two-block street, for one block and then I turn onto my own tiny street, which is an amazingly long four blocks. And there I am, home to the oasis in the middle of an urban environment. My neighborhood is basically a dead end neighborhood, though it is not a cul-de-sac. There are four ways in and out, but you can only go so far. You can go in from the west (U.S. 27) but you can’t go far east, for it dead ends. You can only go in and out from the direction you came in. It’s pretty funny. We humans think when we’re lost, that if we keep going, we’ll come to somewhere else. The last thing we think of is turning around and going back the way we came.
Because of its isolation, I’ve learned that many long-time residents of the area don’t even know my neighborhood exists. Those who do, know you can’t get anywhere from here. So it’s like a secret garden. There is almost no traffic or noise.
Just to the left of center in the picture, you will see my tiny picnic table, which will comfortably accomodate two people, and in a pinch, four. But mostly it’s just me–reading and thinking. I have most of my best National Geographic moments here, all of which are not welcome. Especially when insects are involved. I searched forever online for this table, because my primary requirement was that it have separate benches. You can’t imagine how difficult that was to find. I finally found, and ordered, this one from British Columbia. I dread the day when it fails, because wood does not last forever. Last year a carpenter bee drilled a hole in the end of the table and made it her home. That was…Not Fun. So natural weathering is not all there is to worry about.
Last week I had two National Geographic moments. I went out and heard some kind of bird calling that I’d never heard before. It sounded like somebody was strangling a baby duck. Then, there was another. Because the trees are so tall, I usually can’t see the birds, I can only hear them. I finally decided they were baby hawks, practicing talking to each other.
The final NGM was, a kerfuffle developed almost right in front of me. In the summer, I have a profusion of shrubs and vines that the Cardinals love to nest in. The kerfuffle was a fight between a squirrel and a female Cardinal. The only thing I could think of was that the squirrel was after the Cardinal’s eggs. But wait..do squirrels eat bird eggs? (Yes.) And wait again…I thought birds only had baby birds in the spring. (No. Cardinals have 3-4 broods per year.) It turns out I was accidentally right.
But what a sight that was. Initially there was a lot of rustling of leaves and squawks of various kinds, but it was all hidden from view. Eventually the squirrel retreated, though not far, to a small branch right above the shrub, where he or she chattered quite aggressively. Then the Cardinal emerged and hovered in the air, madly flapping her wings in his face and screaming. She won. The squirrel retreated further up the tree and gave up. You go, Girl!
I guess it isn’t exactly like seeing a black rhino in the wild, or swimming with dolphins, but I long ago developed the ability to take great pleasure in small things.
One day I will have to give this up, because I simply won’t be able to afford it any more. I hope that’s a long time coming. In the meantime, I intend to etch it in my memory and wring every possible moment of joy from it that I can.