I was recently asked where my favorite “wild place” is. I thought about all the different places I have hiked and kayaked in the past, and I found it hard to come up with just one place. There is one spot, however, that is consistent and never disappoints.
My favorite wild place is my very own backyard. This is from where most of my writing inspiration comes. My neighbors and I live on a peninsula with four different waterways surrounding us. Across the street, and visible from my living room window, is the Chesapeake Bay. This peninsula is at the mouth of the South River, so the end of the street points to the confluence. The river itself has several bays flowing from it, and the last bay, flowing into the other side of our peninsula, is called “Lake” Ramsay. Though not a real lake, this is where my backyard faces, where my dock is built, and where most of my nature-watching takes place. Lastly, next door, and mostly hidden from view, is a non-tidal, freshwater marsh. Both descriptions make this marsh odd because most marshes on the Chesapeake are both tidal and brackish.
Our peninsula isn’t a straight line, and the marsh takes up land that can’t be built upon. If I had to guess, this “marsh” is the result of draining ages ago so the current houses here could be built. These marshes are situated all over town – all over Maryland, in fact. It’s not uncommon to walk over a wetland bridge from parking lot to shopping center or restaurant. In fact, I read that Washington DC itself (30 miles away) had to be drained before it could be built. That explains the famous tidal basin and other surrounding waters there.
Now that the history lesson is done, let’s head back to the wild place that is my backyard. First off, birds are everywhere – and they’re here all the time! There’s mallards, ospreys, and red-wing blackbirds during half the year and swans, Canada geese, and bald eagles the other half, just to name a few. Nine months of the year (spring through fall) I’m distracted to near insanity trying to ID all the many different song birds by their calls. I love it, though! Additionally, we have greedy seagulls and morbid vultures here year round. The real magic is watching the slow-moving grace of a heron or a crane. Listening to their scratchy, old-man calls, however, is NOT magical.
By land there’s squirrels, rabbits, foxes, deer, and groundhogs. The squirrels have gotten so used to me that one almost climbed onto my lap while I was reading. I don’t think he had been paying attention; I had been so still. I went to turn a page and scared the bejesus out of him.
By sea there’s fish jumping through the air, crabs walking around in the shallows, turtles coming ashore on the beach, and a chorus of frogs calling from the marsh. In summer, one can see the visible fins of skates and rays in the distance.
I can’t forget the insects. As you can imagine, the marsh is prime breeding ground. Though the mosquitoes are pesky, the dragonflies are glorious. Butterflies circle the house as if they’re playing a game of tag. Carpenter bees freak out when I put my chair too close to their nest, and the spiders are all friendly.
And of course watching the seasons change is also special. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we get all four.
For those of you who don’t already know, I’m unfortunately dealing with immobility issues, and there’s lots of places I would love to be and activities I would love to be doing. I’m fortunate enough, however, not have to venture far to be in my favorite wild place.
Where’s your favorite wild place?