life in the wild


The awful thud against the window in the sunroom made Jody jump up and rush outside where she found the small Downy Woodpecker on the deck. As she has done previously, she picked him up gently and held him in her warm hands as he shivered from the collision. At first we didn’t think he was going to make it, but he was able to move his head which told us our little dive bomber had not broken his neck.

Living amidst the wooded hills of far eastern West Virginia with the Shenandoah Valley just over the ridge line of the Great North Mountain, we are daily observers of life in the wild. From the mushrooms and wild asparagus that we stalk, to the Pink Lady Slippers we found in abundance yesterday deep in the woods where we walk daily with the pups, there is a wealth waiting to be enjoyed.

 View Into Meadow
View Into Meadow

With May drawing to an end, we are in the final days before we take custodianship of the meadow behind a giant and ancient White Oak out beyond Jody’s clothes line. The meadow begins on the other side of the rock pile that some now long gone and unknown farmer put there as he cleared the field to plant an apple orchard. From the shade of the Oak, we look out into this sunny island where the grasses grow tall and more woods come up to its edge. This purchase should be the final patch of land to make up the footprint that surrounds us. We have come to our conclusion of thirty acres.

As we tromped this meadow with a friend recently, we startled–and he startled us–a big lean black snake about four-feet long taking a sun bath just inside the wood line where the sunshine meets the shade. He was completely stretched out in his beauty as though he were some sunbather on the beach soaking up the warmth. He seemed as curious to see us as we were to see him. All of us stared quietly at one another, smiled, and then moved on happier for the chance encounter. Jody scampered ahead and soon found some Jack-in-the-Pulpits near a large Walnut down closer to the rock pile. It was a good outing.

Doublefile Virburnum
Doublefile Virburnum

This morning, I have been visited again by Mr. Catbird outside my “command post” window who periodically attacks the window trying to chase away his reflection. It is early and he is intent on ridding his neighborhood of any competitors. It’s a good solid kind of love of home and hearth that is his obsession. I understand his drive to keep his true love safe from intruders. She’s nested in the Mohawk Viburnum I planted from saplings years ago. They are now some twenty feet high and thick with flowers about to bloom. On the other side of the yard are a line of double-file Viburnum that are already in full bloom now. As I learned long ago, a garden without Viburnum is like a day without sunshine.

As we await the arrival of my daughter and her boyfriend later today for their Memorial Day mini-vacation, we are happy to have them just a hop up the road in the small cabin we have on another adjoining lot. From the balcony off the cabin’s upstairs bedroom, you can look off into the woods that has a floor of ferns covering it. The deer are always nearby. This spring’s new frogs also plunge into their pond just this side of the ferns as we approach their water world. A month or so ago when this neck of the woods was still brown, Jody and I spent several days clearing out a well-decayed pile of leaf mulch that now “lives” in our compost bin eager to be dug into the rich soil of Jody’s vegetable garden.

Golden Chain Tree
Golden Chain Tree

The magic takes its final turn as the little Downy finally recovers his bearings and begins to squirm. As Jody releases him, he’s now anxious to return to the branches and protective shrubbery that surround us. He lights temporarily in the Golden Chain tree which is now in full bloom. It’s quite a sight. We are pleased to see his flight as he leaves us without a word of farewell. We like to think, though, that his short time with us has left as deep impression on him as it has on us.

He has given renewed meaning to the phrase that is framed above our hallway door leading to the outside: “A bird can soar because it takes itself lightly.” We can learn much from the birds that come to visit.

Images: All  the photos in this story were provided by the author, David Evans

David Evans

I'm retired from another life and live in the mountains of eastern West Virginia with my muse Jody along with one remaining dog.  We've decided no more dogs and cats.  Losing them is just too painful. Being independent and no longer in the reins of someone else's driver, I now have the chance to revisit the many people and places that have enriched my life. The good folks at Wesleyan College in central West Virginia guided me to a graduate degree in fine arts in early 2018.  My plan is to use some of the skills I learned from two years in this creative writing program to tell my story.