The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Spring: time for passion and birth

(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 4/26/2013)

Outside my studio window stands Mary Lou, a dogwood tree now in bloom, given my wife by her fellow nurses when her mom departed the planet. A colorful variety of feathered creatures bath in the stream, then fly up to preen themselves dry in Mary Lou’s outstretched arms.

At least one of the shrubs surrounding our house has become, or soon will, a nesting place for a robin family. I think it already has because when I approach a robin on any other side of the house, it flies away. But on the one side, it merely hops a few feet, in a more or less straight line, it’s back pointed to the evergreenery where I suspect it has taken up housekeeping. I take that behavior as an invitation to follow, knowing full well I’m being led away from the future baby bed.

Two adult red-breasts flutter among low branches and along the ground, stirring up leaves in their already stirred up passion to continue their species – he chasing her in typically boyish fervor, she fluttering coyly just out of reach as she measures the depth and resilience of his ardor, and thereby his suitability to become a daddy to her soon-to-arrive babes.

Elsewhere, two fire engine red boy Cardinals vie for the favors of a duskier Cardinal lass, and a couple of Mourning Doves engage in similar endeavors, all oblivious to the others, or to me as I unabashedly observe their antics.

About a week ago, I watched as a pair of House Sparrows completed their amorous necessaries and set about building the nest in which the new chicks would spend their formative weeks. The sparrows had taken over a Bluebird house we had screwed to a tall fencepost. The house came with instructions to chase away any not-Bluebirds that might seek to set up residence in the house, and to clean out any nest the interlopers might start.

I did that one evening. The next morning, the undaunted couple were back at it, hauling materials and weaving the cradle. I opened the side of the house to discover a partially rebuilt nest – and an egg. Imagine how that discussion went as the overnight effort commenced.

He: “That doggone human guy! I’d like to drop a branch on his head and give him reason to bother someone his own size.”

She, interrupting in the fashion of a woman about to be a mother: “Stop bloviating and get to work. If you don’t get a soft place for this egg to land, I’ll be dropping a branch on your head.”

I could almost hear him muttering, in chorus with my favorite uncle, “I’m the captain of this household. Unfortunately, my wife is an admiral.”

Our abode is surrounded by a thick pile carpet of rich greenery, its expanse irregularly interrupted by raised beds of raspberries, small veggies and various posies. The grass is home, we have discovered, to thousands of worms hard at work folding naturally composted detritus into fertilizer.

Of the multitude of seasons, Spring is my favorite – at least until it gives way to the others. I admire the appearance of young women adorned in pastels that mimic the appearance of newly clad birches and sugar maples – finery at which a younger me in an older time and place marveled from the hard road where it bisected Saywood Ellis’ pasture.

A favorite place now to observe the pastel pallete is Iron Springs Road, near it’s intersection with Fairfield Road. If I’m lucky in timing, I may catch a pair of CSX engines towing its load along the foothills of the South Mountains, through Fairfield Station and around Jack’s Mountain toward Blue Ridge Summit.

Grady The Golden lies by my chair while I type, waiting patiently for me to stop writing about it and get out into it. A dandy idea, methinks.


  1. Wonderful. Your words carried me to a tranquil (for now) land of birds, bees, flowers and trees. I so much enjoy the colors of spring. They seem so much more energetic than the more tired colors of summer and the exhausted colors of autumn before falling to the ground to provide mulch for the next spring.

    • Thanks, Sharon. Being out among the wonders is indeed the stuff of unintentional poetry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.