We own this property. We really do. Our deed is registered with the County Clerk. We know our boundaries, which trees are ours, and which are not. The great white oak. The rugged pine. Two large beeches on a knoll. The tulip tree we planted as a seedling the year we moved in. No question about it, we own this land. We’ve even made improvements: porch and gazebo, paths and fences.
Why then, do we still feel like trespassers? Well. . .
If we dare approach the hawthorn tree in berry, birds explode, chattering about rude interruptions during dinner, probably gossiping about how the neighborhood has gone down hill since the gardeners have moved in.
The mockingbird owns the elderberry (but we own the rest of the trees, don’t we?). If we even think of elderberry jam, he’s there, scolding us. Well, we really prefer strawberry, but the box turtle already got those berries.
The great blue heron squawks till our ears are about to split, all because we innocently approached her. . . what? Eggs? Young? She turns out to be bigger up close than she looks in pictures. A hasty retreat seems in order.
Then we have our regulars, Bonnie and Clyde. Under cover of darkness, this raccoon-duo gang up on our birdfeeder. One climbs on top and shakes while the other catches seeds that rain down. Enough is enough, we say. That’s it. We’re dismantling the feeder. So there. We won. Or did we?
Bambi and his mom are so shy and polite. Surely they will heed our recommendations to try the gourmet daylilies at the four-star café in the next yard. Thanks for the tip, they nod, but first we’ll finish your azaleas. Would you mind moving? You’re standing in the way of that tender shoot. Oh, shall we serve it to you on a silver platter?
The gazebo belongs to us! No one would dare invade that sanctum. Would they? As soon as we sit to relax, a hummingbird zooms in, hovering and bossing. Can’t you see? There’s a problem with the feeder. Fix it. Okay. Okay. We, who were about to have lunch, are now fussing over your lunch, chasing ants or wasps, replacing three-day old syrup.
There’s more. Invisible voles tunnel underground, whacking roots out from under astilbe. Mother rabbit nips morning glory vines from the bottom up while her offspring climb swaying lily stalks for flower tidbits top down. The young black snake greets us with a flick of his tongue as we cast a shadow over his holly. Excuse me, are we intruding on your sunbathing?
Box turtles daily line up for the compost smorgasbord (Pray tell, what is she serving today?), then crash through netting for a dessert of strawberries. Nightly, possums gobble what the turtles discard. Once a hedgehog scoped out the garden, but he left after a few days. (Probably didn’t like the digs—too mucky and rooty for his tastes.)
But not too rooty for redbelly turtles who excavate multiple holes for trial
nests, invariably in paths—wonder we haven’t twisted our ankles. That nearby drumming is the pileated woodpecker pummeling away at logs we’ve so lovingly placed along the edges of paths. (Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to be wary?) Oh well, between turtle holes in spring and spider house parties festooned with curtains of webs each fall, the paths are not so inviting.
We haven’t yet asked this crowd if any of them have deeds to the property, and if so, are said deeds registered with the County Clerk. We just bet they aren’t. If we took them to court, they would probably claim squatters’ rights. In which case, maybe we don’t truly own this land.