I learned the words flora and fauna on 3-2-1 Contact — how I loved that show! — but it took me years to get them straight. I’m not sure why, since flora sounds like flower and fauna like fawn. Still, I was excited to learn new words and excited, too, that one was about animals. Here at Primrose Street there is quite a bit of both categories. Behind our house our neighbors keep chickens who cluck peacefully about it the morning and evening (do they sleep during the day, or do I just not notice them?). Thankfully there don’t seem to be any roosters. That is probably against the zoning rules of the neighborhood. In the front, across the street, our neighbors have love birds up in the third floor window. I can’t see them from the porch because of the linden tree, but I hear their happy chirping. Then there are the various wild birds: robins, blue jays, sparrows, mourning doves, orioles, swallows, warblers, and others that I haven’t yet identified. Overhead there is the occasional red-tailed hawk and, once, a heron. My two favorites so far are the black, white, and red downy woodpecker and the one tiny hummingbird that made an appearance the other day.
Then of course there are the neighborhood cats who haven’t been informed of the property lines, and always look shocked and offended when I show up in my own yard or driveway, interrupting their sleep or play. I suspect they are the ones responsible for the occasional smell of skunk. And the adorably big and old dog who sleeps in a giant pile of yellow fur in the driveway next door, outside of Mark’s window. Mark has adopted him as the closest thing he can have to a pet right now, and updates me regularly on his activities — or lack therof.
The most significant flora, besides my ever-increasing collection of house plants, is the linden tree in the front. It looks rather scraggly in the winter, but fills out in spring and summer with heart-shaped green leaves. An interesting feature of the linden tree is that its leaves and twigs secrete a kind of sap that attracts bees and wasps as well as birds. So there is always a faint hum and rustle of activity coming from the tree, and if you look closely you can see movement everywhere. Fortunately the bees stay near the tree, and don’t bother me much on the porch, except for the occasional foray to check out my mums and marigolds. Lately, though, there have been more bees than usual wandering over to see if my clothes might be edible, and I wonder if the sap has begun to dry up. Some of the leaves are already turning yellow, which was their color last October when we moved in. The unfortunate thing about the sap is that it drips down and covers any car parked beneath it, and it’s difficult to get it off. I had to give my car a good scrub, and now I park farther up the street.
And then we are a five minute walk from the Arnold Arboretum which has hundreds of types of trees and plants, some quite rare. Because Boston and Japan have a similar climate, many species of Japanese trees thrive at the Arboretum. My favorite are the hundred year old, two-hundred year old, and even older bonsai trees, incredible, tiny trees which could make even the most hardened realist imagine himself in fairyland.