My phone rang. “They’re here!” It was my neighbor, Darlene. “If you come over right now, you can see them playing!”
I ran across the street to join Darlene on her back deck. There, down the hill under the trees, were three fuzzy red fox kits, tumbling and wrestling. Their triangular ears popped above the leaves like radio dishes, rotating whenever they stopped for a moment to look around.
Darlene was smiling wide. “This is the fifth year we’ve had fox kits at our house.”
Fox kits are a special treat, but nature brings me something beautiful every day. A song sparrow. The fragrance of clethra. The red pop of winter toadstools.
Sadly, the fox den was a large burrow dug underneath Darlene’s garage. “I hate to do it, but we’ll have to fill it up this summer when they’re gone. I don’t want our garage floor to sink.”
I agree with Darlene. You have to keep nature under control. Deer? I spray my yard with a natural repellent (just to give the native azaleas a fighting chance). Squirrels? Last year we had the eaves under our roof closed off when we found chewed wires.
If my relationship with nature was a marriage, I would say we enjoy wonderful moments – and also, at times, a healthy distance.
But when it comes to a relationship with nature, some choose instead the advice of a divorce attorney.
Healthy trees? Take them down. Lawn? Spray with chemicals. Divorce is the result. No bugs, a few flats of flowers, an orderly but spiritless corridor with no wildlife.
It’s simply not American to divorce nature.
We inherited our concept of the “ideal yard” from European aristocracy. Green turf, a couple ornamental trees, a row of trimmed bushes. A fox? Send out a hundred dogs and men on horseback to kill it.
America was the great wilderness when discovered, an Eden where God’s nature still smiled.
My small suburban yard is actually a “Certified Wildlife Refuge,” with a small brass sign under a bush proving this designation. This is easy to do. Guidelines are published by the National Wildlife Federation. www.nwf.org.
Only small changes are required. Introducing native plants, supplying a water source for animals – even a small bird bath will suffice. The questionnaire walks you through the process. It’s a fun project to do with children, the way I introduced my kids to nature.
A community that is healthy for wildlife is healthy for our children and our pets. Fewer toxins. Improved water and air quality. Getting kids back outside for mental health and development – and the joy of natural exploration and discovery.
Roswell and Alpharetta are a bit ahead of us. Both cities have already joined the National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat program. It has improved the property values in the cities, according to countless reports correlating communities that are nature-friendly to property values.
But, it was worth making even my small yard into a Certified Wildlife Refuge. Last April, sitting with coffee at our kitchen table, we watched the mother fox creep up to our small pond water feature to get a drink of water.
The moment seemed a gift from God.
– Ann Litrel is an artist, writer and certified Master Naturalist.