One of my biggest fears about moving to New England from southern Illinois was that we wouldn’t be close enough to nature. Back home, I was used to seeing deer on the lawn, bonding with the bunnies that’d stop by to steal from our garden, enjoying the long stretch of yard between our house and our neighbors’ (but also enjoying and knowing our neighbors), and the short, scenic drives to wilderness trails, sandstone bluffs, fishing, hunting, and camping spots.
Since the entire move was based upon my attending graduate school in Boston, I wanted my commute to be reasonably short. I wound up sacrificing close proximity for trees, a peaceful neighborhood, and backyard buddies.
We are awakened by the quacking of the ducks; when the blinds go up they waddle over to the window expectantly, awaiting their pieces of wheat. A decent amount of our day is spent feeding the flock, the squirrels, the groundhogs, and the chipmunks, looking for new bird species, and curiously witnessing the animals’ interactions.
Our bird watching, animal feeding, and constant observation make exciting nature lessons for the girls. They are eager to learn more about each of our furry and feathered friends and I have a fun time teaching them. The carrot-loving groundhogs had babies recently, and one of the female ducks (the only duck successful at keeping her eggs safe from the opossum) had 11 ducklings! This has given me another convenient opportunity to explain the difference between birds laying eggs and mammals giving birth to live babies.
We discuss migration, the birds of prey, the differences between the red and gray squirrels, the way to behave around the animal babies, the way to avoid getting sprayed by the skunks, the reason why the blue jays scare the sparrows away, the purpose of the red-bellied woodpecker’s pecking, and many other teachings. It’s like having a nature show out our back window!
It takes me over an hour to get to school, and thus far I have only seen one lonely deer, but my daughters get to run free in the grass behind our condo, there’s a patch of woods that conceals us from neighboring streets, I am enjoying the various hiking trails, there are plenty of places for fishing, and the scenery in this area is amazing. In fact, it’s a lot like home!