The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

A studio at the edge of the woods

Leucistic House SparrowWatching the clouds drift in, and I watch them drift away again. (With apologies, or at least a nod, to Otis Redding.)

A Downy Woodpecker arrived, stopping to check a fence post for bugs, prompting a pair of House Sparrows to break away from the feeder to assume guard positions at the bird house mounted at the top of the post. Unsatisfied, the Downy moved away, and tried to rustle up some grub from nearby tomato stakes.

Is there such a bird as an albino sparrow? It shared the feeder with the House Sparrows, by which I mean it landed at one of the four holes spaced round the bottom of the feeder and demanded its share from the larder. Unlike the feeder next to it, the cylinder requires that the feeding bird poke his head in the hole to get the seeds, and that does not leave room for an adjacent hungry mouth to sate its owner.

So the two clans fight, each unwilling to share with any applicants who aren’t them – though they are more sanguine about Blue Jays, Grackles and the occasional Downy Woodpecker. On the other hand, I have a picture of a House Sparrow battling a Starling that looked too closely at the sparrow’s nest house.

The raspberry plot is alive with bird food, a few small clusters of Japanese beetles, and here and there on the leaves a few Ladybugs. A rather interesting-looking mushroom sprouted from the mulch the other day, a single stalk similar to an asparagus spear but with a white, spongy stem and a red crown. It had a slightly x-rated appearance, as noted by a few observers on Instagram and Facebook – and whoever stamped it with its Latin label.

The grass between my home and the woods is a most wonder-full studio. We watch robins pull worms for their young. Spiders of various versions create webs in the grass and between the flower beds. Of course, there are wasps and bumblebees; one must be alert for such dangers.

A friend posted a note that she would like to take a road trip, maybe alone, maybe with someone. She would like to explore the land and take pictures and sleep, occasionally, under the stars. Someone responded that’s too dangerous an undertaking, these days, for a single woman.

Allow me to suggest the danger is mostly a construct of those who would make their millions selling protection from danger.

Last night’s news carried a story about a family gathering spoiled by a collapsed deck. It seems 24 people gathered by one rail, while someone prepared to shoot a picture from the other. “Tonight people are concerned about the safety of millions of decks across the country,” the newscaster said.

Every news report for the past week has told how police authorities across the country are on high alert for ISIS-inspired terror attacks. “There is no credible information,” newscasters and police chiefs shout into our living rooms, “but we are very worried about the lone wolf.”

Shark attacks are up, though still not at exceptionally high frequency. Still, sharks head for warm water to eat, and they attack things shiny and splashy. And a shark attack is certain to get top billing on the evening newscast.

I hope the young lass makes the trip she dreams of. She is a writer, and I would enjoy reading of her discoveries.

I’ll cry if one of her reports tells of injury, but I feel very sure, as long as she refrains from catching wasps or sharks with her bare hands, the odds favor filling her journal with spectacular discoveries.


  1. John —

    I hope she made the trip, too.

    If so, it was no doubt well worth it.


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