Highland Street runs roughly north/south and bisects a gently sloping hill. Our house sits halfway down the northern face. The lots on my side of the street are narrow and deep and rise above street level 3-4 feet and stack alongside one another like we’re terrace farming people, squirrels, and kitty cats. The backyard slopes downward another sixty feet behind the house, losing about 7 feet in the greater descent westward towards Reams Creek, a dirty little stream that unburdens itself a little further along into the French Broad River. In the distance the Smoky Mountains rise up out of the coal plant smog, but are visible only in the winter while the quality of the more immediate scenery is diminished by the great unveiling of my dilapidated neighborhood.
“BOH-RING!!” you might be thinking, if you’ve hung in there this far, and i’d be inclined to agree with you if it wasn’t the early fall and the breezes weren’t rustling the floating skirts of the great spruce, and if the temperature wasn’t that just-right temperature- not too hot, not too chilly for lounging barefoot in pijamas. Backyardia becomes a little eden, for a month or two, before colder weather and defoliation ruin the mirage, and mr. Goldilocks here is no longer content with his lot.
A brief catalogue of backyardia’s contents, if you’ll allow me to roam visually into the backyards of my neighbors as well:
one ancient-ish blue spruce, with long lithe limbs that reach improbably straight out and then bend down at the tips, like a fiance showing off an engagement ring.
one black walnut which has absolved me of late from feeding the vast squirrel population i’ve cultivated. the mornings are filled with a surrounding racket of squirrel can-openers at work shelling walnuts, and the world is littered with shell shrapnel and dark juice remnants that resemble blood stains.
if the tree rats aren’t squirreling away enough nuts for the winter, i expect a malthusian squirrelpocalypse. i’m kind of counting on one, as i’m feeling overwhelmingly out-numbered. also, when you read my blog, i recommend pronouncing the word squirrel in your head the way my Colombian friend Lina does: skwee-rell. sounds better that way, or at least it does when she says it.
one lovely honeylocust, a box elder who’s branch tips strongly resemble poison ivy, two cherry trees which produce copious tiny bitter fruits ignored by all living creatures, one giant sugar maple, and a hedgerow of shittily invasive ailanthus trees.
one invisible cat that considers my gravel driveway to be the world’s most fantastic litterbox. the poop is always buried deep enough that i can’t find it, but not deep enough that i can’t smell it. my fondness for all the neighborhood cats is diminished.
two hummingbirds i’ve recently enjoyed communion with. one shot directly towards my face and hovered just out of arm’s reach. i was inordinately pleased by this inaccurate assessment of my snatching capabilities. we gazed lovingly into each others eyes until it realized i was not filled with nectar. on another occasion, another hummingbird (or was it same?) approached my nether regions as i was supplementing the nitrogen content of my lawn. it stayed down there long enough for the moment to evolve from magical to awkward. luckily it made an accurate assessment of the nectar content of my pistil (or is it my stamen?) and elected not to investigate my stream more intimately.
one landlocked pirate ship, currently under construction.
The nice thing about my front yard being well about street grade and my back yard being a bit below street level is that, with the completion of a barnwood fence alongside my house, the pirate ship is nearly unnoticeable.
this is me, only with grape nuts with peanut butter and a splash of half and half. sometimes a teaspoon of honey: