Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – January 22, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – January 22, 2004 – I may have mentioned before that my office window overlooks my garden and the back yards of my neighbours’ homes. I can see down the lane about seven houses.
In my neighbourhood, most of the homes have a fenced backyard. Behind the yard is an area, flanked by a fence where we park our vehicles. It’s ideal because it gives us small, private city or courtyard gardens and off-street parking. The fences and gates are usually high – at least six to seven feet; and we try to keep them fairly uniform in appearance.
The landscaping, of course, is varied and the decks and patios are as different as the people who own them. There are mature trees all along the lane that provide shade during the hot summer months and stand like sentries over the snow covered yards in the winter.
The ins and outs of the gates and fences provide an ideal playground for neighbourhood pets and wildlife. The top plank of the fences are usually a 2×4 plank and they become a natural walk-way for cats, squirrels and raccoons, and a natural resting spot for birds. My fence is covered with a beautiful grape ivy whose green leaves twist in and out through the latticework in summer and leave a thick, gnarled rope of branches and stems in winter. My garden is a very popular destination for birds and animals.
The raccoons tend to lumber along the fence tops at nighttime, in search of food, oblivious to anything but the task at hand. It’s charming to watch a mother with her five or six off-spring out for a stroll after dark. The mature raccoons are sure of foot, and the babies who are tentative in spring, become masters of the fence walk by late summer.
Cats tend to be a bit sceptical of the height of the fences, and only clamber up them if a defensive tactic is required – but the squirrels are in playground heaven on the trees and fences.
They stage elaborate games of hunt and chase and intricate ambushes – often leaping on one another from adjacent tree branches. They perform remarkable somersaults and hang off the fence with one paw, while swatting at their imagined foes with the other. I’m sure I’ve seen some of their most complex manoeveurs duplicated by Cirque du Soleil. They’re inexhaustible as they pursue each other up and down the light standards in the lane, leap from branch to branch through the trees and dash along the fence tops – spraying snow in winter and leaving twigs and leaves fluttering to the ground in summer.
Once the enemy has been vanquished, the victor often pauses to groom his tail, scratch an ear or munch on a treat, that he has magically retrieved from somewhere along the squirrel highway or just plunk down for a nap.
After a fresh snowfall the fence tops are rounded with snow and it’s not unusual to see a squirrel burrowing through the snow like a train charging through a tunnel. Birds also tend to alight on the fence tops to survey their domain and peck for food – but they are all business, and don’t tend to play in the silly way that the squirrels do.
Their cockamamie antics are charming to watch, and five minutes with the squirrels goes a long way to making anything that is wrong with the day seem far less onerous; and on a good day, their wacky capers quite simply warm my heart and make me smile!