Higher than the critters

Published 9:08 pm Saturday, August 3, 2013

One of my favorite things about Suffolk is the close connection to nature that one can have, right in the middle of the biggest city in Virginia.

I’ve always enjoyed being close to wildlife, and I’ve been blessed to live for most of my adult life in places that sometimes seemed to have been plopped right into the middle of a zoo. Even at our home in Portsmouth, before we moved to Suffolk, my wife and I were pleased to discover that our marsh-side yard was a place where muskrats, possums, raccoons and even otters would haul themselves out of the reeds to preen.

Since we moved back to my boyhood home in North Suffolk’s Sleepy Lake subdivision, I’ve been glad to see the parade of animals is at least as diverse as I’d come to expect elsewhere.


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One of my favorite things to do, when I’m able to get away from the office early enough, is to sit outside, under the gazebo on the patio as day turns to night. From that vantage point, I can see the yard sloping down to our little corner of the lake, and it’s always interesting to watch what comes by.

I’ve seen muskrats and raccoons, possums and foxes, rabbits and even a few deer crossing the shallow area of sand where the lake once was before erosion filled in our end of the cove. Many families of Canada geese have been raised on the bugs they’ve foraged in the yard there, and we often see egrets and heron fly past on their way to or from the lake itself.

It’s amazing how the stress of the day seems to melt away as darkness falls, and I listen to the frogs and cicadas take over the singing from the birds that serenade the neighborhood during the day.

Lately, though, there’s been a nervous apprehension behind the relaxed mood. My mother has seen a few big snakes in the yard this year, and I’ve had this terrible, inexplicable and recurring picture in my head of a skunk brushing past my legs as I sit there at night. Encountering either of those creatures up close and personal in the dark might be the very last straw for my deadline-stressed heart.

For my mother and my wife, the bigger concern is the possibility that I’ll encounter something rabid while relaxing on the patio. Rabies continues to be a problem in Suffolk, as evidenced by the possibly rabid fox that attacked a puppy in the Orchard Cove subdivision of North Suffolk on Thursday.

I try not to live in fear of anything, but I’ll readily confess that I’m not a big fan of pain, so the possibility of getting bitten by a critter in the dark and then having to get a series of rabies shots has given a new edge to my evening outings.

I might look relaxed with my feet propped up on a chair, but mostly I’m trying to get myself above the level of the critters.