My home is in the middle of a mid-sized American city. The house itself was built in 1941 on a .226-acre lot. That makes it one of the young ones in the neighborhood. I’ve been steadily and happily working to improve our small part of the ecosystem since we arrived in 2013.
While it might have been under our care for only a nine of its 81 years, I’m proud of the work we’ve done in that time. I’ve torn out privet and greenbrier. I removed nandina and English ivy. We have a vegetable garden where the invasives once roamed free. I planted a buttonbush and a beautyberry.
Louise asked for butterflies, so we’ve steadily improved her perennial butterfly garden. The passionflower vine is putting on a show for the Gulf fritillary butterflies as I type. Noah wished we had birds, so we have bird feeders and places for nests. I wanted fewer mosquitos, so we added a bat house. Greg wanted flowers, so I’ve planted a riot.
We lost an oak tree this spring, and in the loss of canopy, we are taking solace in the sunlight that now lets the roses grow. And we take comfort from the second oak that is growing strong and straight.
I recently read Mary Laura Philpott’s memoir Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives, and I was struck by her relationship with the turtle that visits her Nashville yard. Not a pet, but a regular visitor, a nudge that nature is around us constantly. It reminded me of the pair of mated cardinals that make regular visits to our feeders. They are welcome co-habitants in our ecosystem.
It is easy to appreciate nature while standing atop a mountain in a state park or careening around rapids on a pristine river. But perhaps the key to connecting with the natural world of which we are a part is to really see the small beauty of a honeybee on clover, a blue jay bossing the other birds, cucumber vines running, dahlias unfurling.
Nature — urban or otherwise — is right out the window.