Tue 2 Aug 2011
In researching his 2008 book Vital Diversities: Balancing The Protection of Nature and Culture, Inverness writer Mark Dowie later recounted in the West Marin Review, “A Yupik native scientist [in Alaska] told me, ‘We have no word for ‘wilderness.’ What you call wilderness, we call our backyard.'”
The Yurik concept of wilderness makes perfect sense to me. My backyard — even my deck — could easily be called “wilderness.”
The critters at night are usually foxes, raccoons, and possums looking for bread or peanuts.
It’s often easy to hear the call of the wild in my backyard. Some alpha males — especially among red-winged blackbirds and raccoons — seem more intent on driving other males away from food than with getting some for themselves.
The second time the three kits showed up (right), their mother was not with them.
Before long, an adult raccoon began growling at them, and they took refuge in a narrow gap between my woodbox and the wall of my cabin. When the adult stuck around, they were too frightened to leave, so I finally went outside. This caused the adult to run off a short distance and provided the kits with a chance to escape.
After all, someone has to keep order on my deck, and it’s fallen to me to enforce the law of the wild.
The foxes get along with each other better than the raccoons do, and because they’re not intra-species rivals, the raccoons will often eat side by side with foxes when I put out peanuts. I’ve even had a possum join in, creating an ecumenical dinner for local wildlife.
Red-winged blackbirds look over my deck prior to landing on it.
Every day in the late afternoon I put out birdseed, which attracts pigeons, doves, quail and juncos, but most of all it brings in bluejays, towhees and red-winged blackbirds.
A fortnight ago, Linda Petersen of Inverness, ad manager of The West Marin Citizen, took a week’s vacation and left her Havanese dog Eli in the care of my girlfriend Lynn and me.
Late one afternoon, he, Lynn and I were sitting on my deck at sunset when Eli spotted one of the roof rats, which spotted Eli at the same time. I grow flowers on my deck in wine-barrel halves, and the rat scurried under one of the barrels. Immediately Eli was sniffing under the barrels, barking and growling.
It was pandemonium. While Eli would try to drive a rat out from under one barrel, another rat would pop out from under a nearby barrel and dash across my deck to safety. Before he was done, Eli had flushed seven roof rats. It was an exciting drama, but it made me glad that — at least for the moment — I’ve been able to seal off my basement against the rats. For now, they show up only when the birdseed is first scattered.
Quietly watching the drama but staying out of it was this Western fence lizard on my wall. It moved very little, depending on its coloring for camouflage. Fence lizards, I should note, are often dark when they first get up in the morning and become lighter as the day grows warmer. Kind of like the rest of us.