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Mixin' in the Village Gravy by Amy MagnusWho are you? Part and apart.

BLOG-A Cool Cozy

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The sky leaked into my room early this morning. I’m in a strange state of enjoying both the deep warmth of flannel sheets against my limbs and the crisp cool night air on my shoulders. Only a couple of hours ago, a possum with salt and pepper fur tripped the motion sensor in our backyard. Now I can hear the robins—dressed in their blue and red feather robes—trading “Good mornings” with the neighbors.

In last year’s bitter cold winter, March was a hard month. Winter gripped our Ohio in a unyielding grasp. By the end of the month, even my Nordic heart prayed for relief. As the sky lightens and the sun warms the air, the weekend’s dusting of snow sublimes from the trees. I muse about the snowflakes co-mingling with the robins, the trappings of Winter nestled in close with the harbingers of Spring.

kitchen gardenindented leaves of the strawberry plant

The robins have quieted down now. Their rapid dawn call replaced by the occasion chuckle. My son takes note of them and other lifeforms shifting around our home. Before this week’s snow, he was rounding the corner of the house to our kitchen garden. “I want to look for strawberries,” he tells me. He is looking for the fruit still several weeks away. I however follow his curious search wondering myself what might be poking through the late winter earth.

Low to the ground, I find dark green indented leaves emerging from the litter. Last fall, I transplanted strawberry plants gathered from the Seed Lending Library in Huber Height. I am pleased to find the new plants establishing themselves. They arrived on site as newspaper-wrapped bouquets…long stemmed shoots with big green leaves and pale yellow runners. I placed them in a couple of beds—one patch that receives full sun under the struggling Japanese maple and one in the shady warm microclimate between the house and our neighbor’s woodpile. It is good to see the transplants breaking from the garden floor. I point out the patches to my son. “There and there and here”, I tell him, “Keep your eyes sharp” first for bud, then white flower, then seed-speckled fruit.

backyard shed

My son is also wise to keep a sharp eye out for our skunk family. The family has taken up residence under the shed in the backyard. I saw one skunk myself a few nights ago. Like the nocturnal possum, the skunk tripped the motion sensor lights in the backyard. When I checked on who might be moving at 3am, I found a black-coated animal with no stripe…just a spray of white fur at the top of its head and the very tip of its tail.

Our skunks occasionally emerge during the day. My husband tells me they often watch him with interest as he tends the backyard. Neither skunk nor gardener have come to harm in these encounters, but my son is none the less fascinated by these animals and their peculiar line of defense. In his kindergarden class…on the back of his morning worksheet…he often draws a skunk. Fat body. Popsicle head. Smirking smile. And an X to mark its butt. A cloud-like spray envelops the skunk’s unfortunate target. My son has even invented a word—ping-ee-shoe—for the aerosol menace.

evergreensshed, aka skunk family residence

As his mother, I am both concerned and amused by these renderings. To me, they personify that deep-seeded push and pull that young people—perhaps young men in particular—struggle with. He feels the need to be apart and the need to be a part at the exact same time. It is a natural enough feeling—our life’s journey is carving out our own discernible space within the human collective—but one to be channeled away from unnecessarily fouling others. After all, we co-habitate with a skunk family. With a healthy respect for each other’s space.

For now, I’m happy to bestow on my son the nickname of his Great Grandmother Katherine, aka “Little Stinker”. She shares his love of skunks…and his knowing smile. That smile says it’s always best to be up to something.

Something wise. ;’)


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