Tuesday, June 11, 2013

If the Sign Fits, Display It

A gift from the Faux-Mom-in-Law, who totally understands me....
A few weeks ago there was a mouse in the live trap I'd set, the one I'd baited with Skippy and put out just the night before.

When I checked it the next morning, I wasn't as surprised to find the Skippy gone as I was to discover my target inside it, nursing her newborn jellybeans.

And where another person might see a Free Snake Food Opportunity, I went in the opposite direction. I happily outfitted a maternity terrarium. For the creature I'd originally intended to trap and evict from my home. The one that had now multiplied itself. Greatly.

That should tell you a little something....

'Ferb', scowling at the camera
At any given moment there are creatures here. Some of them even intentional. Over the years I've housed, befriended, raised, and loved everything from the Normal to the Not So Much. There were the usual strays and adoptees, of course, combined with whatever the cats dragged home or my Girlz found under rocks. I nursed stuff back to health and fed motherless things without fur or feathers. I administered formula and cooked special diets and got up every two hours around the clock. I fed caterpillars, fledged butterflies, nurtured tadpoles, released froglings, and misted slugs and stickbugs and toads. I learned to like spiders.

Currently my 'zoo' isn't as densely populated as it has been in the past. It's down the mother housemouse and her brood that I mentioned earlier (thankfully). And 'Phineas' and 'Ferb,' the two tiny turtles my eldest Grandbug found and gave to me to raise over a year ago, have since matured and been returned to the pond from whence they came (sadly).

'Syntche', the stowaway corn snake
I mentioned snakes earlier. I've never thought of myself as a snake person, but I now have two and love them both (who knew they could be so interesting??). And there are stickbugs, as well, and a pair of Betafish, and James's tarantula, 'Nell.' And you already know about Boo, the rescue kitty.

And not so very long ago, it seems, there was a ferret and a cocker spaniel, and a whole herd of ratties, and a starling that whistled and talked. And soon there will be the enormous summertime job of raising milkweed caterpillars into Monarch butterflies.

*Contented sigh*....

As you may have guessed by now, I don't have Martha Stewart standards. Tumbledown's not for the faint of heart. It's a working house, plain and simple. One where a kid can feel comfortable running indoors with an earthworm in his hands and not feel as though he has to take his shoes off first. It's for people like me who aren't easily grossed-out, who aren't afraid of a little dirt (or alot), who anticipate the occasional cat hair in the Cheerios, who are more comfortable with creatures than they are with human company.

'Lily' of the molted feathers
But sometimes human company is important. I'm grateful for James, who shares my esthetics, but once in a while I entertain the notion of having you over for tea. But then I take a moment to REALLY look around me.

There's the furry chair cushion that Boo sleeps on. There's the Beta tank with its current algae bloom. And even though I swear I swept it all up yesterday, spent birdseed already crunches underfoot as I cross the hardwood floor.

There's my collection of Lily's molted feathers displayed in a vase (right next to the jar of cat whiskers and not overly far from the jar of shed snakeskin), too incredibly exotic to throw away....

Jingly cat toys share the dark recesses under my furniture with assorted hair ties, pipe cleaners, and dust bunnies so evolved they've created a union.

Art-related flotsam litters my dining room table and shares space with sciencey stuff. Books claim nearly all other horizontal surfaces. Shelves overflow.....

Passion Ivy runs amok
Surprises lurk in the unlikeliest of places: a cicada specimen, all eyes and veiny cellophane wings; a perfect snail shell, the souvenir of my visit to a nature center; a trio of tiny acorns that a grandbug gifted me; a thumb-sized moth cocoon looking for all the world like a fairy sarcophagus designed by H.R. Geiger.

Plants modeling various forms of the word 'thrive' crowd my front window like jungle cover, and on sunny days the assorted crystals that hang from them cast my living room in rainbows.

Tealight holder? Not anymore....
Things that aren't meant to be (but are now) fairyhouses are everywhere. Little letters to their occupants (written in a preschooler's hand) are tucked between chapter books and spill out alongside recipe cards and Notes to Self and articles I still mean to read and crosswords I still plan to solve. Toys fill in as paperweights, keeping the bills in check until they're paid or the toys are put back into play.

I have yet to sweep or dust or wash dishes or put away laundry. It's after noon already and I've yet to eat breakfast.... But the 'zoo' has been loved and fed, drawings created, pages studied and dog-eared, e-mails answered. I've explored ideas and revisited memories. I've made the coffee. I've cleaned terrariums.....

And you'll recall I'll have to move all those colored pencils, pads of paper, books full of ideas gleaned from magazines and mail order catalogs, all those fill-in-the-creative-blanks if I expect you to sit at my table for tea.

And I do want you to come for tea! I do....

But it occurs to me as I write this post (and agonize over it a little bit) that there's a reason why I discourage visitors. At least adult visitors (kid visitors understand, I think): Few but me could look upon this mess and see it for the heaven that it is.