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They Act Like We’re in Their Space.
Most evenings since spring, Frank and I will tie our beagle, Mattie, on her run in the yard, and sit on the patio in the shade. She runs back and forth, sniffing, playing with her ball, rolling on her back in the brass, watching her domain for the appearance of rabbits afar. My other dog (Frank hasn’t taken to him yet), my recently adopted blind son, Sun, is a fearless chihuahua mix and he scampers around his familiar territory, bouncing in and out of the high hay at the edge of the yard.
And this year for some reason, every evening around 8 p.m., a doe comes in to interact with the dogs.
At first, we were entertained by her interest, and then on one of her pass throughs in the yard, she got tangled in Mattie’s run. She has a tendency to charge at little Sun, who knows games are afoot and runs around barking, but hasn’t the ability to swerve and avoid her when she charges through. And, she’s not intimidated much even by our shooing and scolding. She stamps her foot at me. I stamp my foot back at her, holding my ground and wave my arms.
She acts like we’re in HER yard, even though we’ve been here going on 24 years now. What is this chick’s deal anyway? But of course, we ARE in “their” space. The deer, the geese, the multitude of rabbits, the #@$% deer flies, the seven foot black snake I’ve now encountered twice in the garden. This is where poison ivy grows, where bees pollinate clover, and tiny little chiggers seek out all your personal parts.
I remember when my little diva grand-niece made her first memorable trip here “to the country,” and upon her first major insect encounter, cried out in that small almost-panicked eight-year-old voice. “A BUUUG!!!” I bent over so we were face to face, took her little hands in mine and said, “This is the country, honey. This is where bugs live.” After that, she was fine.
This year, the blackberries have run amuk. To make sure we actually get to enjoy any, I’ve draped shade cloth across a nice long run of them at the edge of the yard, and have washed some of my empty jelly jars. Enough for one run of jam would be nice, but I’ll have to beat the deer and birds to them first — and watch for snakes while I’m there.
Sometimes, I have to remind myself that we live in nature’s neighborhood. I really have come to hate the wild geese, and have understood the importance now of good and proper fencing to defend gardens from deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and chickens. I have learned to “communicate” and cohabitate with most other local neighbors. The black snake and I have an understanding so far; he stays out of the chicken house and out of my house and my way, and he can stay. I try to save bees who end up in our pool. I gather praying mantis egg sacs in the spring and the fall to bring closer to the yard to eat stink bugs and other pesties, and I make little houses in my gardens for toads I find and encourage them to move into.
This is where they live, and I’ve tried to learn to live with them, because they outnumber me by far. This is why I have to stay on my game if I want free blackberries, why I prefer black snakes to copperheads and let jewel weed grow in my gardens to use for poison ivy treatment. Why I quietly mourn and simultaneously reward the cat for every dead rabbit she presents me.
But these evening games with this doe (who also ate my unprotected hostas and my lilies, how dare she?!) are too dangerous for our dogs. So, every evening, around 8 p.m., I have to bring my ferocious and adorable Sun inside the house for a time-out, and Frank and I stand at the edge of Mattie’s run boundaries and defend “our territory,” throwing things at her and yelling, until the doe resigns and runs away, pouting that the evening games have been banned again. Only then can we return to our relaxing evening watering the plants, cleaning the pool, gathering eggs, and tending the gardens.
Our space within their space.
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This season, I have thrust myself into the world of local crafters and vendors. I bought a canopy, commandeered two tables Frank bought for work, got a card reader and introduced my creations to the world. We also, for the first time in seven years, have planted a serious vegetable garden. I packed and toted my “pop-up shop” to two events, and have spent more time bent over, lifting, pulling, and toting this season than I have in almost a decade.
And apparently, during the pandemic (and my seven “more sedentary” years), I got old. A pile of mulch bags dropped in the front yard once brought me pure joy. Fresh mulch still brings joy to my heart, but my back is no longer thrilled at the prospect. And handling a full-grown gosling that’s somehow gotten caught INSIDE the bird netting ain’t fun, I can tell you that.
But I enjoyed attending the 73rd annual Folk Festival and 1st annual Fourth of July Celebration at Cedar Creek State Park. Simple pleasures with friends and long-since-seen faces. There’s a deep-down nostalgic comfort in such community events that reminds me of the efforts put in by my grandparents who established them years ago, and parents who start them now.
For our day at the park, (I took a friend, and set up next to a friend’s pop-up soap shop), I filled my mom’s 1960’s Coleman water jug with water from my water filter. My friend, recruited to help me set up and tear down, spent part of the day in the shade, in a camp rocking chair in her hat, reading the recent issue of WV Living Magazine. The air smelled of cotton candy, essential oils, and Scentsy candles at the park, depending on which way the breezes blew. Kids rode by on bicycles, or were wet from the pool. Dogs on leashes, hot dogs with sauce, slaw, onions, ketchup, mustard, and plain. Music played, lawn games played, home-baked goods consumed, apple butter stirring. Ice cream, slushies, sweaty hugs, persistent ants — all the simple pleasures that don’t require reliable technology.
How do you describe a simply wonderful day, knowing how many had aching backs or fell asleep exhausted in their arm chairs that evening? How can you not think of your own grandpa toting Coleman coolers and reclining lawn chairs and your grandma’s pineapple upside down cake?
When I got home, around 8 p.m., Frank asked about my day. “It was wonderful,” I replied. “I’m exhausted.” And instead of unpacking the car, I took up our evening vigil shooing away our nightly visit from our nosey doe neighbor. I slept like a baby all night that night, and unpacked the car the next day.
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I think I’m a little too old to pop-up my shop on a regular basis, but I understand the importance of attending these events. There may not be anything “special” to simple pleasures or 73 years of tradition, but so soon after the pandemic, I am comforted by tradition, and simple gatherings with friends and familiar faces.
I’m also more appreciative of all the work required to continue old traditions and establish new ones. In a season of civilization where human interaction happens too often online, churches and community groups lose more members every day, and the value of the humanities are being questioned in education — how can I articulate the importance of being happy human beings simply gathered together?
I had forgotten. Just as I forget that I live in the country. This is where bugs, deer, geese, bees, snakes live — and where we live. It is all to be celebrated, even though sometimes, we forget.
As I mentioned, I don’t know how many times a year I’m going to pack the pop-up shop out into the public. My shoulders still hurt, and I’ll have to made sure I have a sweat band on my head for set up a take down. So the next step in my personal renaissance is to get photos taken and items set up for sale in my online studio at twolanestudio.com.
Paid subscribers will receive discounts, as soon as I figure out how to get that set up as well. And I give no promises about future features, because the tomatoes need tied up, the melons and squash need weeded, and I need to check the blackberries every morning and evening, or there won’t be jam this winter.
But I do have my books online, and some of my art available as prints already at twolanestudio.com. I hope to build the store inventory during the heat of the day, and in the evenings, once the nightly doe defense teaches her to leave our dogs alone.
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