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Backyard Explorer

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Living close to RDU airport is both convenient and captivating. While long distance flights to rapturous locations remain a dream, I turn my attention to a world of discovery steps away. No luggage required. The roar of takeoffs and whistle of landings are eclipsed by flights of crimson cardinals, swoops of blue jays and barn owls, songs of chickadees and other tuneful warblers whose names I’m still learning. Such a chirpy habitat! Coffee in hand, I venture out. Heavy sigh. I gaze upon the vile yellowish green dust which cloaks every bud, branch and windshield on a nippy March morning. Pollen season. Welcome to Springtime in the South.

Chilly sunrises give way to 70 degree afternoons, reminding me that as temps climb, opportunities shrink for shaping, raking and spelunking the nefarious outback of our rear yard: the natural area. Leave it be, you say? Sure, if one is comfortable with a June jungle of mutant weeds strangling each other for stingy specks of light. By then it’s a little yard of horrors, botanical green monsters towering over me, mockingly, as I feebly chop, spray, and whack into submission a woebegone landscape. It’s also beat the clock time to avoid snake encounters.

Gardening is not for sissies. A lighthearted morning foray into the blooms can result in a rewarding afternoon beverage or a manic trip to the ER. Lest you scoff, NC is home to the nation’s highest variety and concentration of venomous vipers. Most notable in our neck of the woods are copperheads. Our community forum is disturbingly active with numerous, detailed reports of slithery sightings, complete with pics and video. Lots of reptile fans out there. I am not one. Only yesterday, turning my shovel over a large dead bush, I picked up a rock below – with a baby copperhead attached. Yikes!

Beyond hosting an alarming range of blood sucking bugs and fearsome spiders, hazards are not limited to ground critters. Leading the airborne division are stinging wasps, hornets – and yellow jackets. Just to mess with us, these pernicious pests make their home in the ground. Stepping on a nest or trimming where they’re taxiing enables a two pronged attack advantage. And they hunt in packs. This, I painfully discovered when my foot once found a nest. Feeling a burning sensation, I gasped upon seeing several yellow jackets creeping inside my shirt, stabbing away at my midsection, leaving their black stingers imbedded. Screaming like a woman possessed, I zoomed into the house where the swarm followed me – followed me! upstairs to the shower into which I deliriously jumped. Drowning the boogers was all that saved me. My advice to all who dare live by the spade: prepare for critter warfare and have an escape plan.

Yet I dig, I plant, I putter, undeterred by godless forces of nature which seek to derail my efforts. I move rocks to delineate this wild kingdom from our grassy domain and flowering beds. A bygone quarry lurks beneath our mini forest, providing a bonanza of massive stone gems in variegated alabaster tones, strands of pearls against the green. They’re so pretty! And they’re free.

Like fellow explorers, I thrive on adventure. By nature and profession, I devote considerable time planning and experiencing lovely destinations, urban and outpost. English gardens, Provence markets, Tuscan olive groves and Holland tulips await my future arrival. For now, exploits are confined to this untamed terrain which surrounds me. And that’s ok. It’s my own world of wonder.

Butterflies are floating, newborn rabbits nestling, hummingbirds are visiting. The wrens are singing. Dangers be damned. To the woods I go.

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