When I was younger, I would banish everyone in the family from the kitchen as I baked. It was my sanctuary, and I was ferocious about protecting it. In a weaker moment and a moment of poor judgment, I threw a still fairly hot baking sheet filled with cookies at the entrance to scare my younger sister out of the kitchen (and for those of you who are younger sisters – I commend your grit, determination, and for putting up with your older siblings… because the older sisters/brothers are a tough bunch). Needless to say, that spazz out got me a stern talking to from my parents, and a good load of embarrassment that I live with to this day. I mean really… what on earth was I thinking?
My parents, with their usual calm approach, told me that I should be the person I want to meet in my life. They told me that throwing things is not the right way to communicate, and because she is my sister – that I had a duty to protect her, just as she protects me. My parents are pretty damn cool, if I say so myself.
As I have gotten older, I realize much more of their wisdom… They always provided me a sanctuary, so to speak. They protected me, and still do, from the onslaught of anything that would hurt me… They are the protecting type. So, it should be no surprise that in my very suburban neighborhood with few pests and animals – our property manages to attract all of them. My father was never one to shoo away the nesting birds, and he would leave the acorns for the frantic little squirrels, even if it made it difficult to mow the lawn. My mother would shoo us away from the little bunnies that popped up now and again in our yard, and help the birds stay away from the reflective windows so they wouldn’t get hurt. They respect every single living thing…. I remember my mother gently scooping a black ant onto a piece of paper and depositing him outside, softly admonishing the ant to “go home.” And when my father smushed a very toxic looking spider – he and my mother both said they were sorry, but he was too dangerous since there were kids in the house. (My younger sister was horrified that they would kill the spider, and burst into angry tears that they would kill anything – needless to say we are of the “scoop and release” variety of human. I’m pretty sure that green spider is the same guy I keep depositing outside).
For a while we had a problem with burrowing little chipmunks, and my mother just redirected their tunnels away from the house so they could live and we could enjoy the yard. We also have a resident skunk, that occasionally waddles past my office window and all you can see in the darkness is his bright white stripe.
Save the dandelions that my father abhors because of their itchy pollen, our lawn is dotted with crab grass (a sin in the suburbs here), clover (another sin), and all sorts of different kinds of greenery. My parents never took much stock in having one of those uniform green lawns, and my mother loved the wild little flowers that would grace us in the spring. I particularly love the quiet little violets that spring up under the trees during the summer months.
Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about human cruelty to animals. Between the fishing baby dolphins out of the ocean to poke and prod on the beach until they die to the horrifying instructions on how to get rid of “vermin” in the yard… it’s a lot to take in. Yes, our house has a resident woodpecker that likes to take chunks out of the trees in the yard, and will occasionally (for fun, I swear that bastard likes waking me up) peck his feathered head against my wooden window frame…. and yes, we have tons of little chipmunks squeaking all over the place. The badgers love running through the moss… and the deer will hang out (like actually sit down) in the yard… but they do not really do anything to us. Sure, the deer and bunnies like to chow down on my garden in the spring and it frustrates me to no end when my heirloom tomato plants are stripped naked – but would I resort to anything so catastrophic like killing the little buggers? No.
My parents joke a lot about how our family home is the neighborhoods sanctuary since even the blue jays and cardinals seem to get along here – but I think it’s an important thing to realize. We can have our home, and the animals can have theirs too. Sure, it’s a little annoying when my tomato plants are naked and that woodpecker (I call him Theodore) wakes me up at 5:55am on Sundays), but they do not make my home any less of a home. And, truth be told, I’d miss the little creatures. They are fascinating.
So. This has nothing to do with food (save for my opening thoughts), but I thought it was an important idea to share about making life more sustainable for everyone. We can do it all… and I think it’s important to provide a sanctuary for the people in your life, the creatures you encounter, and everyone. We can make room.