The world depresses me easily, O internet. The government spends so much time squabbling over idiotic things and I kind of want to yell “You guys do realize that if we don’t fix the bee problem, we’ll starve to death, right? Okay, just so we’re clear. No, no, go on, make your fifty-millionth symbolic attempt to defund Obamacare. I’m sure that’s much more important.”
So I go and wander around the garden, which is tired because it’s fall and things are dying or dried or weedy or spindly. (Well, in the backyard. The front yard is extravagant. Amazing what six inches of topsoil and five years can do.) And I have to go traveling soon, which is increasingly not my favorite thing to do. I need some downtime when I am not living toward the next time I have to get on a plane.
At times like this, I pull out my yard list.
It is a weird coping mechanism, I grant you, but there it is. It is a list of every species of bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, butterfly, and dragonfly that has entered the yard that I have managed to identify. It is a list of all the stuff that got a home or an overnight rest stop or at least one good meal because once upon a time, I looked over the lawn and said “Yeah, we can do better.”
Birds — 66
Mammals — 6
Reptiles/Amphibians — 21
Crustacean — 1 (AND HOPEFULLY WILL STAY THAT WAY)
Butterflies & Moths — 33
Dragonflies & Damselflies — 7
Random Bugs & Spiders — 20*
I don’t even try to do plants, although I will note that two species of native orchid persist on the property—one in the foundation planting where there used to be a rather enthusiastic boxwood, no less. (Crippled cranefly and rattlesnake plantain orchid.)
It’s a weird OCD sort of coping mechanism, I grant you. It has no weighting, and counts a single ebony jewelwing sighting the same as an active breeding population of bronze frogs. Still, the numbers are oddly soothing, and reading down the lists of names is hypnotic. Carolina wren, blue gray gnatcatcher, mourning dove, pine warbler, American goldfinch, summer tanager, yellow-billed cuckoo, great crested flycatcher… ringnecked snake, brown snake, broadhead skink, Carolina anole, eastern pickerel frog… spring azure, pearl crescent, American painted lady, falcate orangetip, cloudless sulphur, luna moth, imperial moth, snowberry clearwing hawkmoth…click beetle, American ladybug, yellowjacket hoverfly, red velvet mite, huntsman spider, predacious diving beetle…
It’s not a huge nature preserve, or even a terribly large garden by many standards. It’s what one woman who isn’t too particular about weeds can manage. In some ways, it even makes less impact, out here in the woods, then it would in the city where it would be an oasis.
Nevertheless, when everything in the world feels horrible or stupid, it makes me feel like in some small way, I’m holding the line.
*There are undoubtedly way way more than twenty species, but I limit myself to ones I can ID by at least genus or common name, and critters like “jumping spiders” all get lumped together, even though there’s probably a gazillion individual species. I am almost embarassed by the scope and relative paucity of this list, which lumps wasps with dung beetles with millipedes with nursery web spiders.