Walking into the backwoods last week to check the heron’s nests, I was suddenly aware of what an intrusive force I was in the forest. The herons have ignored me on my visits to the rookery–in spite of the thick layer of leaves that telegraphs my every footfall. Maybe they are too busy with their courtship rituals and nest building, or too high up in the cottonwoods to be worried about me below. I don’t know. But last week as I neared the pond, a red tailed hawk circled over my head–again and again–clearly annoyed by my presence and staying well clear of his nest. Then a rawkus squawking of two geese on the pond who swam away from me–craning their necks over their shoulders to scream their unrelenting annoyance. A pair of mallard ducks fluttered out of the water and scurried behind a tangle of bushes as I came in sight. A chipmunk scolded from a tree and a raven joined in the cacophony. I was clearly unwelcome here in the midst of all this spring mating and nesting.
We are usually the ones who feel intruded upon by wildlife: the racoons in the garbage, the chicken stealing weasels and coyotes, the flower nibbling deer, the tunneling ground squirrels and gophers. Even the hole pecking flickers who make swiss cheese of the siding and interrupt our sleep with their drilling on stove pipes.
But this time I was the intrusive, unwanted wildlife disrupting the ravens, chipmunks, geese, ducks and hawks. And it made me acutely aware of the ripples I send out into the wild world as I pass through it. I think of these as “my backwoods.” But they aren’t really mine at all.