Whistling Past the Graveyard

There are two obsessions of mine at the moment; Ebola and the new bird room. It took a while to see the connection.

Almost immediately after moving in, I knew the new bird room would go outside the west windows. This is the “dining room”, but with the open plan, and the southern windows, it’s really the main living space.

The bird room is/will be an exterior space that Bubbles is not allowed into. When we lived in suburbia and she had to be on a leash, this was no problem. She hasn’t been on a leash (unless visiting others) since we moved, so somehow we need to screen her out. That is one consideration.

Any bird room needs three things: food, water and cover. So a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs would be important. A year round water feature of some kind can really make a huge difference in traffic through the room. All of these things require thought. Flowers, too, will go into the room.


I was pretty happy to just consider it, planning to do not much until next year. We have plenty of other projects to get done; I’m not bored, that’s for sure.


I read about Ebola for the first time when I read “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston. It came out in 1995. Good book and still worth the read, but I bet there is or soon will be a new afterword.

This latest outbreak got a lot scarier when Doctors Without Borders (Medecins San Frontieres) said it was “out of control.” Those are the same words used, ironically, by TEPCO in August of 2013, when speaking of Fukushima. I really hate those words.

I could probably intellectualize this until next Sunday, but my gut says time is running short.

If it is not this specific outbreak that kills more than 60 percent of the world’s population and thus crashes civilization as we know it, the next one sure could. There is a definite link to our destruction of the natural world and release of viruses. If not this pandemic, there is always war, nuclear catastrophe, or climate change.

I’m sort of feeling like someone who just survived a near miss; grateful to be alive and wanting to savor it.

Since there do not seem to be any mammals in the vicinity, you deal with whatcha got and I like birds. It’s been wonderful to see so many hummingbirds here. I just made up a batch of nectar and set out fresh stuff and it’s like a switch got thrown: no hummers. It’s been days. I miss them.

I’ve been looking up various native plants, and doing a lot of staring out of the window. I’ve been mulling over hardscaping options and staring out of the window.

Finally, I tried to sketch it out. I debated about showing you the sketch and decided I would skip that particular humiliation. It helped me.

The house is a square and there are sharp edges everywhere. I don’t mind this but I do prefer circles and arches and arcs. So I’m going to try to stick a circle into a rectangular space.


One of the challenges is the giant ugly air-conditioning unit. The other is the well. I haven’t figured out an answer to the ac unit, but the well didn’t pose much of a problem.

Once it dawned on me that the yellow gate would need a new home (that tree(s) being slated to be taken down), the pieces sort of fell into place.


So, between the dogwood and the oaks is where I’m thinking the gate will go, after being painted a sunrise orange.

All around the edge of the circle are huckleberry bushes, maybe with a couple of rhododendrons added in. Huckleberry comes in low, medium and high varieties and I haven’t yet figured out the mix. Both evergreen and fruiting, they’ll form a lovely but useful border.

The cardboard into the circle represent where the paths will go. At the moment, I’m thinking pea gravel would be nice. With plantings in between and around the paths, and with the creatures it will shelter and nurture, it becomes a living mandala.

Will any of us get the time to enjoy it?

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