Daily Prompt: The Natural World — Living There

I cannot remember a time when I did not live in or close to woods. I grew up in a house surrounded by giant white oaks, the last of the white oaks in the New York city area. So rare the city took care of them for us, though they were on our property. All the other white oaks had long ago been cut to use as masts for tall ships.

Two red lawn chairs are bright in a wintry woods.

Even when I lived in a city or suburbs, we spent vacations, weekends, most of our off-time in the country and often, very far out in the country. Places you could only get to by dirt roads. Awed? No, not so much awed, though often impressed. Except on the ocean where I am constantly aware how quickly Mother Nature can change from benevolent to terrifying.

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I have sailed — in a tiny wooden sailboat — through thunder squalls. Not of my own choice, I should add. I had an insane husband who liked to pit himself against the seas. It gave him great stories to tell when friends dropped by. I thought him mad, but there I was, with him and the baby, so maybe madness is contagious.

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Today, we live in a not-so-little house in the woods. I love the trees, hate the pollen and have really gotten totally sick and tired of the bugs, tons of leaves to clean up every year, not to mention a fascinating collection of critters who think our heated house is the spot for a winter retreat. Our endless battle against mice, rats and chipmunks never ends.

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Then there are the bobcats who haven’t read the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries bulletins about being shy of humans and take up residence under the deck or in some other building next to the house, ignoring us and going out of their way to aggravate the dogs. Or the fishers who think the back lawn is the ideal place to sun bathe, snarling at anyone who tries to use the yard. The birds who nest on the deck, screaming at us and attacking should we dare attempt to use our back door. They leave when they are good and ready. They didn’t read the bulletins either.

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For all that, I can’t imagine living in a concrete world again. I need contact with the earth, with all the challenges of living in a forest with wild things. Which reminds me, I really must remove the mouse nest from my car’s transmission compartment ASAP … I have no idea how they keep getting in there.

Being connected to nature is as necessary as the pollen-filled air we breathe and the inhalers I keep nearby to control the asthma.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

15 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: The Natural World — Living There”

  1. One of the freaky things about leaving the East for the West is coming to grips with the profound change in landscape. After ten years in Texas Hill Country — rolling, wooded hills, and, absent drought, lush green pastures and miles upon miles of wildflower-carpeted highways — what I see today seems “normal.” When I go east, the landscape seems exotic, foreign, strange to me, even though for 50+ years it was my everyday frame of reference, the basis from which all life seemed to spring. My new normal has somehow supplanted the old one, and the sight of eastern foliage fills me with awe. In the land of my origin, I am a tourist, gawking at what was once so cherished and familiar.

    There are days I would give almost anything to walk, carefree, through the northern woods in Autumn. I don’t walk through the Texas woods — too great a chance of snakes — but from the edges, I am grateful for the roadrunners who keep the snake population in check. Unlike the gentle lands back east, the terrain here feels hostile to humans … too rocky, thorny, itchy, steep. But it has become my everyday vision, and I love looking out the north side of our house — almost entirely floor-to-ceiling windowed — and watching these green hills change through the heaven (winter) and hell (summer) of our two seasons.

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    1. When I came back from Israel, having grown used to desert and stone and the two season year (HOT HOT HOT and WET WET WET), I was almost overwhelmed by the greenness of the northeast and silly things like wood floors. In Israel, everything is stone, mostly marble (local marble, not the fancy Italian stuff). It’s amazing how quickly the extraordinary become normal. We adapt faster than we think. Glad to skip the snakes. I don’t like them, but they scare the crap out of Garry. We just have garden snakes, though sometimes pretty big ones. Israel had HUGE snakes … mostly black king snakes. They ate vermin but seeing one in the road — 8 or 10 foot of fat black snake — could really derail your smooth driving!

      On Sun, Jun 30, 2013 at 12:45 PM, SERENDIPITY

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  2. I love living pretty close to Nature too but we’re not quite as close as you. White oaks cut down for masts? I shall have to find out more. My lovely Mr S is wanting to buy a boat and to start sailing. I am not at all sure about this. I love boing near the sea but being in it or on it does not thrill me in the same way! πŸ™‚

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    1. Masts are made of aluminum these days. Not only are there no more white oaks to cut down — almost anywhere — but modern vessels are not made of wood except for decorative stuff — decks (maybe, and only on really expensive models). Aluminum is lighter, easier to maintain. Not as beautiful, though. But don’t worry: no tree will die for the mast of any sailboat you are likely to buy πŸ™‚

      On Sun, Jun 30, 2013 at 12:47 PM, SERENDIPITY

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        1. Probably it was. White oak, whether here or in other countries, is THE wood for ship’s hulls and masts. It always has been. If it’s unavailable, other wood is occasionally used, but not if oak can be gotten. Teak is used for decking, at least these days. There are a lot of reasons why oak is so favored, but basically, it’s the best wood for the job. Oak is growing back, now that it isn’t being cut down faster than it can regrow. Our woods are full of it, but the trees aren’t even close to mature. That takes a few hundred years. White oak grows very slowly.

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      1. Nice post. Agree with you about not living in the city anymore despite about our complaints about critters, pollen and other things.

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