The balcony outside my office saves me from gray days; it’s an unexpected bonus in my life and came to be because of a branch that fell on a ledge outside my window. We leaned out, Jim and I, but it was just beyond our reach. Jim tied a rope around my waist and held me steady as I went out for it.
I stood on the sloping ledge, loving what I saw: my messy pond, a view of our garden, the low stone wall in back, and the woods beyond. Across from me was the sycamore tree so wide I couldn’t get my arms around it, and a large round hole that told me there was a squirrels’ nest a few feet above my window.
“We could cut a door where the window is,” Jim said, “and build a small balcony.”
And that’s what we did. I write at a small table out there until it’s really freezing. There are three evergreens in pots, but sadly one didn’t make it through the heat this year. I’ll get another as soon as it’s cooler. And of course, there are feeders.
I watch the hole in the sycamore as I write. When the weather’s hot, the squirrels aren’t there. I read once that they take naps in leafy nests in trees…and it’s true that when fall comes I see those brown crumpled leaves high up in the branches. But as soon as it’s cool, they watch me, one head above the other poking out of the hole. I’ve counted as many as five.
Last week I washed the feeders and filled them with fresh sunflower hearts. The yellow finches have left the coreopsis and gather on all the perches. I’ve seen nuthatches as well, and a couple of woodpeckers. The chickadees are so polite. They each take a seed and go back to the sycamore to enjoy.
Ah but the squirrels swing wildly onto the feeders, chomping the seed as fast as they can. “This is why you have such a dreadful reputation,” I tell them.
They believe I’m their slave. They see me on the snowiest day, bundled up, bringing them dried corn on the cob as well as seed.
My writing days are happier because of that life around me; the words seem to come faster, the stories easier to shape. I try to put bits of that small life into my books, a sparrow here and there, perhaps the sound of the redwing blackbird, my favorite, who comes in March to tell me spring is here. I want kids to see what I see.