Spring came.

Daffodills, tulips, cherry blossoms, crabapple blossoms. Fresh grass. New leaves. Rain and cooler temperatures followed by a few hot days. Then everything peaked. The greenest greens you can imagine. Kelly, mint, sage, lime, army punctuated by pinks and whites and snowing petals.

Summer isn’t here yet and the temperatures don’t scream summer but the dry days and lack of rain and brown grass reek of mid to late summer. The zinnias and cosmos are coming in. My hastas are three feet tall and easily four to five feet wide. Pollen is dissipating, giving way to a few berries.

I watched a momma and her fawn the other morning. Little thing could barely walk. Momma jumped into the tall grass and little babe wobbled her/his way through.The sweetness brought tears to my eyes. Precious thing.

Fox were out and about. One afternoon a few weeks ago, one ran up our driveway and then turned around and stared at our dog, 100 feet away. A showdown ensued. Fox heard me creek the front door open and ran. Saw it again a few days later, running down our neighbors driveway. I want to take my camera and find its den. I know it’s a mother which means her pups are nearby. Fox pups. Little balls of fur with bushy tails. Little loves.

Momma deer was in our backyard with her babe late this afternoon. Babe was moving through grass, and all I could see was its small brown back moving through waves of green. Got out my binoculars and watched those spots move until I couldn’t see them anymore.

My tomatoes are producing fruit. My ferns already have bird’s nests in them out front. My neighbors dogwood is full of blooms and the magnolia next to the parking lot at school makes every walk into work feel like I’m walking into the perfume section at the local Macy’s. The sweet, beautiful smell makes me smile. And at the end of the day, when I’m fuming or disappointed or just flat-out beat ass tired, those sweet flowers make me pause…and smell….and then smile…and my drive home isn’t so awful. There are four or five magnolia trees along the edge of the parking lot. Somebody had the foresight to plant those in just the right place to make teacher/staff days a little easier during the hardest time of the school year. I am grateful for whomever that was.

The temperatures have dropped back down. Cool mornings, warm afternoons, hot sun. Yesterday was the second day of smoke in the atmosphere from forest fires in Quebec, Canada, enough that I could smell the fire, as if it’s a campfire in my neighbors backyard. A brown haze hung in the atmosphere the past two days, brown and ominous. Eerie. A strawberry moon earlier this week, now strawberry sun due to the fires.

My kids are done for summer. I have another week and a half and then I’m done. Cannot come soon enough.

I just checked my bluebird boxes at the edge of the forest out back. They are full. Three boxes. Three nests, all look like bluebird nests. One with momma bird sitting on eggs. Another with nest but it’s empty. And the third, well, see below.

I am BEYOND excited. That I can provide homes for bluebirds to raise a family? That is a huge thrill for me. I love that wildlife knows my yard is safe and chooses my yard to live in, to pass through, to have babies, and to find food. I know deer and birds and wildlife live everywhere, but the birds and deer and wildlife we have here… stay here. We’ll have a herd of 30 deer in winter and then come spring, they separate and females have their babes and we seem them, daily in smaller groups until fall/winter when they join back up. Mr. Blue comes with Mrs. Blue and they build nests and lay eggs and raise their young here, have now for over two years. And the fox are in the area along with woodchucks and pileated woodpeckers and Carolina wrens and house finches and squirrels and raccoons. They’re all here. And I love it.

Like last night. I had 8th grade graduation, then dinner and some drinks with colleagues and then home around 10. I let the dog out and she immediately went to the edge of her invisible fence and started barking at the woods. Something was there. And then as she was barking, I heard something coughing. Not a human cough but a cough. I wondered if it was a deer, coughing from the smoke. Just now, while checking the bluebird boxes, I went down to the woods and saw where a deer had been the night before.

That padded down space is about three feet long by about a food wide. I hope the deer are well and that the smoke doesn’t bother them too much or for too long. I know there are too many deer in the area, that hunting and car accidents do little to bring their population down to healthy levels. I also know that many wild animals live in my backyard; I’m going to do what I can to make their home as comfortable and livable as possible.

The smoke is better today (day 3). Air quality index is around 73, which is moderate. Yesterday at this time it was 233, which is considered unhealthy. I read an article last night that said El Niño is happening, bringing drier, hotter summers to most of North America. Canada is already dry, hence the fires, so the next few months could be interesting. Too much carbon dioxide is already wreaking havoc on our atmosphere; the burning of forests, even naturally, contributes to those levels as well.

If this is our new norm every spring/summer, god help us.

That’s my neck of the woods; what’s going on in yours?