The New Digs

We're moved. Mostly. There are a lot of small items still back in the apartment, and between now and the 30th, we'll be ferrying them to the house bit by bit. But in terms of where we're living and sleeping and eating, we've moved.

It's an enormous improvement.

I'm not sure we've acquired all that much additional square footage, but it's laid out differently, and even with bins and boxes still stacked and waiting to be unpacked, I feel much less enclosed. And speaking as someone with low-grade claustrophobia, less enclosed is a Good Thing. One thing Kelly and I didn't really notice until we got here was that the apartment had only three windows, one in the living room and one in each bedroom. Each faced southward, giving us a view of the parking lot and the building on the other side. I didn't really understand how oppressive that was until I was sitting in the new living room, able to see our big picture window AND the two windows in the dining room behind me AND the kitchen window just beyond that AND even a smidgen of the side window upstairs in my study. I realized at that moment that I am now surrounded by light and trees and sky.

The neighborhood is very different from any I've lived in before. I've spent many years living out in the country, and many years in a town with a few urban elements, and for the last three years I thought I was living in an actual urban environment. Maybe I should have considered how varied cities can be, which I should have known if I'd only thought about my year living in Manchester. I also lived in a city when I lived in Fayetteville, but again, it was nothing like this.

Basically, until now, I have never lived on a block. Except in Manchester, where I was in a dormitory, I have lived mostly on curvy and irregular streets carved out of the available landscape. Even our apartment complex was surrounded by winding streets and bordered on a creek with a small strip of parkland on the far side. 

This neighborhood, by contrast, is actually set up as a grid, albeit an irregular one, and it's offering me a strange new set of sights. From my study upstairs, which looks out over the back yard, I can see an array of fences, small sections of yard, and the service road behind us where the trash and recycling cans go. I can even see between two of the houses behind us, and there I can get a glimpse of the houses the next block over. But what I can mostly see right now are trees, enormous shade trees. Our back yard is shaded by a quartet of massive oaks, with an understory containing a weeping cherry, a cedar, and an as-yet unidentified tree with shaggy bark and alternating leaves. Beyond our fence I can see the grand oaks in our neighbors' yards, and the wall of green covering the next block over. It's not at all wild-looking but it's far from tamed.

And the birds are comPLETEly different.

I have been keeping yard lists since we lived on campus at Woodberry, and some things are consistent: the first birds to turn up after moving into a new home are almost always the common birds of the southeastern summer: American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove. And yes, they've appeared here as well. But the most visible birds here have been Eastern Towhees; we have a male who perches out front and calls to a female up on a wire to our neighbors' house. Both can be seen flying over and hopping around the back yard regularly. Gray Catbirds are also making regular appearances. We have a Brown Thrasher who has flown up out of the ground cover on a number of occasions. But the real surprises have been what's missing; first, I really would have expected at least one House Sparrow by now, given their ubiquity in other parts of Richmond, and second, I am actually shocked that I haven't seen or even heard a Carolina Wren yet. It's been a little over 48 hours since we moved in, and I simply can't believe I haven't heard so much as a single teakettle.

But what HAS turned up has been equally shocking, particularly in the way it's turned up. I have written before of my lifelong dearth of House Wrens, so you can imagine my delight at spotting one winging across the yard and diving into cover on our very first day here. I'll ask you to further extend your imagination to what I must have looked like yesterday when I spotted one taking a dirt bath in a bare patch near our deck. It was there long enough for me to come downstairs and get a naked-eye look from the kitchen (though it flew into the bushes just as I was calling Kelly over to see it.) 

And this afternoon? Having retired to my study to enjoy the brand-new internet connection, I was keeping half an eye on the yard, and I can report looks at the Robins, the Catbirds, and the Towhees, and even a gilmpse of a couple of Song Sparrows in the big willow oak. What bewildered me was the sudden landing of a largish songbird on the lawn. Like the House Wren, it was using the dry soil of our yard for a dirt bath, but its long cinnamon tail was something I'd never seen in a yard before. I had seen it once or twice a year, usually in woodlands or parkland of some kind, and certainly never in any spot close to human habitation.

It was a Great Crested Flycatcher.

It's a yard bird here.

I'm going to put up a feeder at some point, and from then on we may see more of the usual suspects, but right now I'm glorying in the unexpected, celebrating the differences in perspective that can be enjoyed even when you've only moved a mile away from where you were.

I think I'm going to like it here.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 18, 2018 5:07 PM.

Moving On was the previous entry in this blog.

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