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The Wild Side

The winter landscape goal was a simple one: two, small beds of pansies. Historically I have kept my yard on the natural, wild side, lush with native ground covers, and easy-care perennials. For some reason I recently had my heart set on some annual bloomers. I left Lowe’s with pallets of the red and white beauties they had out for the Christmas season. I had chosen wisely. The pansies soon provided the tamed show of much needed color in my winter garden. March 2020 rolled around. I added more pansies, and Johnny Jump-ups in yellows and purples. The early spring blooms worked their magic, until they didn’t. I awoke to two beds of headless stalks.

I live on a unique piece of property. The land has all the appearance of being in a remote national forest. Deceiving as it is when looking at the thick growth, I can walk to downtown. Wrapped by a peninsula of water formed by two rivers and a creek, all protected by TVA, my little “slice of heaven” is home to all sorts of wildlife: squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and beaver. An abundance of beautiful smaller birds, along with hawks, two pairs of pileated woodpeckers fill the air with their sounds. A bald eagle, at very rare moments, holds court in one of the tall trees that leans out over the Valley River. The waters host geese, ducks and a sometimes, a graceful grey crane or is it really a great blue heron? The occasional black bear makes its way into town, leaving behind a scraped tree or two and other signs of a brief stay at my wildlife hotel.

Last summer I had two deer on the property, a first since I have had the privilege of living on this land. I was thrilled. When these two left my hasta looking exactly like the chewed pansies, I got over the excitement of hoping they would produce a Bambi. Thankfully they have moved back to the bigger woods this season.

I’ve got new guests this year: foxes. Four to be exact, three full size. One carried a kit in her mouth as they first strolled down the long drive. I shared this show of nature with a friend. She, too, has foxes on her property. She explained the fox is much like a dog. She encourages them on her land by placing a raw egg daily in the same place on a rock.

In the past two days, the foxes have ventured in closer, and my flowers have ceased to be eaten. (Yes, I have tried multiple plants in hopes the groundhogs did not have a taste for at least one of my choices.) Then I had an epiphany that I backed up with a little research. The fox is a predator of groundhogs.

I suppose I do not need to tell you my next move. A raw egg now sits on the perfect rock. I wait…. a word that has not always been part of my busy vocabulary. Although I had not anticipated such, the “hit of the reset button” that has come with the pandemic, has synced my pace much more in step with my land, with nature and the cries of our world.

You will soon meet this property in my novel SPRINGHEADS. I am close to handing the work off to the beta readers, and then the editor. The story captures history and mystery all rolled into one. The setting is vast, unfolding across Mississippi, Brazil, Arizona and North Carolina. The sense of place is strong. The characters remind us that life is often lived on the wild side.

June 14, 2020

Mary Jo Dyre

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