This is an accurate statement. Thank you for monitoring my online activities so closely.
Oh, I was just wondering if you, like, got a pet squirrel of something.
No, I am neither cool enough nor crazy enough to get a pet squirrel. Here’s the deal: I’ve been working a lot this summer. Like, a lot a lot — whole Friday morning-to-Sunday night spans of writing. And I either work at my kitchen table or in my garage, and both of those look out onto my backyard. That is where the squirrel lives.
And he is your friend!
Well, not exactly. I would say that he has boundary issues and an unhealthy interest in my activities. That said, he does seem a lot more invested in me than the neighborhood cats are — except in one specific way that I will get to in a moment.
Didn’t you name him, though?
I did. His name is Phillip Alexander Phluffytail, but that was really more for convenience’s sake than for any other reason. Name aside, he has been aggressive on a few occasions. I’d been outside without shoes on and he was almost directly underfoot no matter how I tried to get away. I had serious concerns that he would bite off my toes. I had to run inside.
But he came inside, I thought…?
He did, just the one time. He walked in through the dining room door, completely uninvited. That was alarming enough, but it was even worse that he did so walking on his hind legs.
I didn’t know squirrels did that.
Me neither. I think he was trying to pass as people.
Did his ruse work?
No, I was aware that it was just a squirrel. God bless him for trying.
So those videos you keep posting on Instagram…
People seemed to think the “squirrels with soundtracks” videos were funny, so I keep making them, but the relationship between director and the talent is, at best, strained. He is not the most reliable actor I have worked with.
Ah. So weird that he keeps trying to get in, right?
Yes, weird, but not exactly uncharacteristic of how this summer has gone down, honestly. There’s been this feeling I haven’t experienced since I was last in Australia, when I stayed at my aunt’s house on the edge of town, and there were no real boundaries between her property and the wilderness beyond. It was great, but always a little threatening. Kangaroos would just roam by, and on every window screen there was some alien nightmare insect trying to get inside. Whenever you opened the sliding glass doors, frogs that had been hiding in the wheel wells would fall out. Even at night, in bed, I’d just lie there and hear scores of birds singing unfamiliar songs and think about how I was somewhere far from home, hiding in a tiny bubble of civilization that nature was constantly trying to break into.
You’re being dramatic.
Maybe. But this summer has just been ants and wasps and cockroaches and moths and the like, all of them sneaking into the house at every opportunity. Just in the last few weeks, I have been seeing cats that haven’t been by previously — new strays, I guess. And this has all been happening while Los Angeles steams under unusually humid weather that makes the city feel strange, that makes it feel like even the air itself is asserting itself in ways it hadn’t before. Believe me, I get the irony in claiming that I’m being assaulted by nature when I’m a member of a species that is basically punching Mother Nature in the womb on a daily basis, but more so than I have in the last year, I feel like nature is trying get in.
Of course, you’re talking to a guy that was literally entered by nature when a sharp tree branch punctured my nasal cavity and caused what’s in me to end up outside in a very literal way. I’m fine now, but that was a scary experience. It has lingered with me.
It’s maybe weird to think about that incident in light of the “She Everywhere” story, isn’t it?
It is. I have thought about that a lot, actually. Getting twelve stitches really sucked, but while I was in the E.R. the doctor told me that I was lucky. Considering how deep the branch got, he said it could have been a lot worse: If it had hit me in the eye or neck instead, I actually could have died. I suppose it doesn’t take much, really.
But you ended up okay. You escaped the fate that befell that poor woman.
In most senses, yes. One thing that I didn’t share in the initial blog post was that when I finally got home from the hospital early the next morning, my first thoughts were about how much I didn’t want to clean up the blood. I just wanted it to go away. And while I did have to clean up all the blood in the kitchen and living room, when I walked out on the back driveway to the initial crime scene, I was surprised at how little blood there was, considering how much I’d seen gushing out when I pulled the branch out of my face. That’s when I noticed the cats — two cats I’d seen in my backyard many times before, and two cats that would generally flee as soon as I’d spotted them, because they’re scared of humans. They weren’t running away this time, however. They were actually busy licking up the blood.
Yeah, the neighborhood cats ate my blood.
I… didn’t know they did that.
Again, me neither, but I suppose it makes sense. Cats eat meat and blood is basically meat soup. I was horrified, I guess, but it had been a long night of strong emotions, and at the time I just didn’t have it in me to give a big reaction. I just decided to call this one a freebie and go lie down.
So the cats know what you taste like.
Yeah, in the same way the raccoons know what the “She Everywhere” lady tasted like.
What a weird thought.
Yep. And it is what I think about when I wake up and one of those cats is staring at me through my bedroom windows.
Okay, you win. It’s been a weird summer for nature.
One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about a spot on the edge of where I grew up, where the territory in which humans can comfortably live gives way to nature. This spot isn’t particularly well-tended, and to me it’s always felt like a place where nature is taking back the land from people, and the things people leave behind just rot and transform into something less tidy and more primal. I guess it’s of interest because I keep thinking about the barriers we perceive between where we live and where it’s just wild animals and plants. They’re not actually real. We might like to think they exist, but animals and plants don’t see them. The wilderness is right there, and it will eventually get in one way or the other.
I mean, yeah, it has been a weird summer for nature. Do you want to go watch TV?
The backyard beat, previously:
- Halloween in March! (Or — Attack of the Sinister Spiders)
- Not Alone in the Back Yard
- An Open Letter to a Skunk
- Things I Found Buried in My Backyard
- How to Destroy Your Toe
- She Everywhere 2: Return to the Raccoon House
- What Do You Do With a Dying Monarch?
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