Welcome to the Jungle

When I was 18 and newly moved to Winnipeg, I had the opportunity to go up in one of the swanky Wellington Crescent high rises.Not in like a glamorous, invited to a party way. Nope, I was out deal-hunting at garage sales on a Saturday morning. I came across an estate sale sign and went in without a second thought. The doorman was probably so horrified at seeing random riff-raff coming into his beautiful, pristine building. I, in turn, was surprised to find out that anyone in Winnipeg actually had a doorman. I think I assumed all the rich people moved to Toronto and the doormen industry with them. Or maybe I thought doormen were a prevalent Hollywood myth like waking up casually beautiful.

Naturally, I couldn’t afford a single item at that estate sale. I did casually look around pretending to contemplate buying a piece of abstract sculpture to add to my nonexistent yet theoretically extensive collection. While I was up in the suite, I let myself out onto one of the two balconies. I think I was expecting to see if not a bustling metropolis, at least a cityscape. Concrete and buildings and people. It was not like that at all. All I could see was trees! I knew the city was there, but it was tucked away under a lot of vivid colour. To this day, I can’t believe how green our city is. I work in Charleswood and it’s normal to see a deer crunching on someone’s lilac shrub. At lunch I go to the park and watch the prairie dogs communicating with each other like “Who is this total weirdo that sits on top of my entry way every day for an hour?” I actually think I have a reputation among them now. Like I’m still parking my car and they’re already shouting out their warning chirps like “Clear a 15 ft perimeter from the park bench to the tree. She’s coming.” All this nature has a presence in the city and in our lives. Some days it can be a little too close. I was at a wedding at Fort Whyte and I was chased off by a feisty goose at one point. Not the most dignified moment in my life, but a healthy amount of respect is the best way to interact with any wildlife anyway. And I didn’t run away. It was more of a brisk walk.

At home, I am very excited about my latest project which is creating a critter-friendly backyard. Humans have a tendency to take over their living areas in a way that interrupts natural ecosystems. Bee and butterfly populations specifically have been negatively impacted. To help in a tiny way, I’m planning on developing a micro prairie ecosystem with tall grasses and native prairie flowers. Some of the gardening guides that I’ve come across have helpfully suggested marking the area with a decorative stone or defining the borders with brick since apparently neighbours may mistake a prairie garden for overgrown weeds. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or gardener) apparently. To attract migratory birds, I had been dumping birdseed on the ground until my mum helpfully pointed out that what attracts birds may also attract mice. Then both Mike and I saw a mouse in the backyard. It was amazing how quickly the bird feeders went up after that.

This city version of nature is a good fit for me. I’ll stay inside and watch the creature dramas from the safety of the window. And if that yard mouse tries to invite himself in, I’ve got Rocky on red alert.

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