Yesterday three friends helped me completely refresh my front yard flower beds and landscaping areas. Large evergreens and bushes were dug up and discarded. It was a long-awaited but much needed change.
New dirt and several new bushes, plants and vines were added while early blooming miniature and other varieties of narcissus were transferred to new locations. A small English boxwood was also replanted to a new spot near another boxwood.
I was especially relieved to take out nine overgrown Barberries. Despite their ruby-leafed beauty, they were painful to the touch, ouch plants.
Ornamental grasses were trimmed and organic boundaries were retrenched. River rocks we have collected over the years were dug up and reset into the edges of the beds.
The mulch and the annuals for the spring and summer season are still to come as we make our final selections over the next few weeks.
While we were digging and working my cat AnnMarie came to the door and watched. A couple of times I noticed her wonder timidly into the landscaping area but quickly retreat back indoors. We were making lots of loud noise so I was not surprised.
After we completed our work I relaxed on the front porch. The afternoon turned misty and cloudy, and lots of neighbors came out to enjoy the warm spring air. I like to watch as they walk their dogs and kids around our community circle.
One little girl was driving one of those self-propelled pink cars I love to watch. She drove down the hill in front of my house, across in front of the lake, and then returned and headed back up the hill, happily chatting with her mom and dad and starting and stopping her fancy creaking car for curiosity’s sake. She brought back fond memories of my twin granddaughters on a Mothers Day many years ago when they similarly enjoyed taking their pink car on a sidewalk cul de sac adventure. Happy, gleeful smiles.
As evening fell and the busy sidewalks quieted down I left the front door open and urged my cat to come outside. However, she resisted and stayed on her cozy spot on the living room couch. For her, this is a very unusual behavior. And then I quickly began to think about how very disturbing all of this commotion and change of the day must have been for her. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more, hoping she would finally come out and give it a try.
Finally, I went inside and cuddled her as I picked her sleepy body up from the couch and carried her outside to join me on the front porch. But she quickly retreated to the door sill where she sniffed and watched for a long time before she finally ventured gently out into the new flower beds and plantings. She did not take long, she did not hurry. But she did spend enough time to leave her scent and rub a few spots along the way. She is unhappy.
What had I been thinking?–overgrown shrubs and trees had provided her cover, shading, places to hide and retreat and familiar smells, but now the landscaping is open and most of the familiar friendly plants are gone. In all my eagerness to improve the landscape, I had forgotten how she would become stressed and feel less safe in our yard.
Because she is almost twenty years old and frail, I am always careful when I let her out. I try to limit her from wondering outside after dark because a red fox recently appeared late one evening near the front mailbox . During the daytime hawks often spiral overhead. So I keep a look out and listen for their sounds. As AnneMarie has become more delicate we have a kind of deal together. I hang around close at hand while she has her adventures.
Her trek through the yard has settled into a familiar pattern. She usually visits both ends of the driveway culvert. She sometimes visits two birdbaths, and she likes to cross the road and hang out near the lakefront for a while but is cautious when the cars are coming and going. And she also likes a drink from the lake water near the spillway.
Occasionally there are places she goes and hides from me.
Her adventures take her at least fifteen or twenty minutes, occasionally and half hour and even longer, and I am becoming very patient with her about it. Being a cat lover (I assume you are, or you would not be reading this), you know what she does. Sometimes she comes right to the front door when I call, swish, swishes her tail and then turns right around and goes quickly off for another little retreat around the yard flower beds or to take a final drink at the culvert. It can get a little frustrating as nighttime approaches.
But AnnMarie has been with me a very long time and I love her very much and I figure it is my job to give her the time she needs. My belief is that these walks and drinks add length and joy to her life and my guess is that the culvert water trough has the makings of all that a cat needs to complete her mineral, protein and vitamin store needs. I am sure the waters are alive with all kinds of tiny swimmers and algae. One thing I do know is that the culvert water is her favorite. Frogs live there, so there are tiny tadpoles swimming around.
Now that I am awakened to the trauma I have unwittingly brought to her ordered life I am wondering if she will adapt and find her way safely around the new flower beds. I have pangs of regret. I reassure myself by remembering that we left a few of the large plantings and that the new larger shrubs and vines will offer some cover. I hold my breath.
I am writing this on Monday morning, a day later, and I am happy to report that this morning AnnMarie did venture out the front door without urging and walked quite a distance into the landscaping areas, even once taking a few small steps around the corner of the house. Progress.
I am hopeful. She has adapted to three new homes in her lifetime.
May God bless AnnMarie and keep her safe from goulies and ghosties and short and long-leggedy beasties, from hawks and owlies and things that go bump in the day and the night.
The work in progress: