Our back yard slopes down and away from the house. It is a former river bed, and has been carved gently over time. Decades ago, the town of Easthampton rerouted the river, bending it dramatically away from our property. What remains behind my house is a little stream, a minor tributary, a ribbon of still water winding through a young forest and a think tangle of wetlands.
From our kitchen window, which faces southwest, we have seen wild turkeys wading through three feet of snow, young deer with their white spots shining in the morning light and rabbits that bolt almost as soon as you set eyes on them. We’ve had a mother bear and cubs walk alongside our house and down through the yard, and at night we often hear coyotes, the young cubs’ howls sound like screams. Squirrels leave husks from our walnut tree around the yard and moles twist long tunnels beneath the grass. Birds fill the morning thick with song. Sparrows, bluejays, and crows tumble through the air, chasing each other from branch to branch, while herons sail with slow grace through the trees and huge hawks circle above watching it all.
My wife and I lift our young son up onto the kitchen counter, where he kneels with his hands pressed against the window, looking out across our wild backyard. Sometimes he responds with bright glee bubbling up, pointing and babbling with excitement. Other times he just stares in quiet awe, studying the animals as they move across our yard and disappear into the shadowy forest. Holding him there, my hands on his knees, his small back pressed up against my chest, I feel his heart beat and his deep breaths expand and contract. Through his eyes I see the world anew and share in the wonder of those moments. (more…)