The blackberry thicket over the back fence erupts every summer with the sun after spending winter playing dead in thinned out, desiccated dormancy. Its tendrils make straight for the sun, spiked with thorns and up to a couple of inches thick; the larger ones bow under the height they achieve and dive back into the confusion.
A small evergreen is battling to overcome them as they wrap themselves around its branches as if to deliberately pull it back down to earth. Eventually it will grow large enough that its shade will kill off the thicket. Blackberry vines entangle its branches, pulling them downward. The picture of this creeping fight for life is suitably dramatic; two insensate, inexorable living things striving for the sun.
Another fence meets ours at a right angle. From here I can watch squirrels climbing through and down the trees at the other end of it, then hopping down and skittering the fifty feet or so to our fence where, after a quick check for the cat, they make a left turn and, coming to the end, leap onto a low hanging branch to continue their tree-hopping
In this way they manage to traverse long distances through city and suburb safe from predators. They must have countless regular routes such as this. I maintain our section of this critters’ Ho Chi Minh Trail by trimming away the blackberry vines that bend around the top of the fence as if to take it down too in their mindless profusion.
Larger blackberry vines will attach themselves to the lower branches of mature trees and grow alongside, twinning them, as if adopting a strategy of concealment. I cut away a vine wrapped about the squirrels’ branch, thinking to make it easier for them to climb on, and the branch, now released, sprung upward a foot or so. Now I’m not sure they can make the jump.
One of my cats–I’m always quick to point out I ended up a single man with two cats by accident when my daughter, their nominal owner, left home–has been holed up in there for two weeks, refusing to come out. If he’s gone there to die he’s going about it all wrong: when I come to the opening in the fence where I removed a board and call he answers back, from the impenetrable mass of thorny vines. I leave food and leave; he comes along and eats it once I’m gone. I spy him from inside the house. If he’s not around I take the food away. If I don’t the raccoons will eat it; I can tell because they leave behind a muddy mess wherever they go. Once I stuck my head in the opening to find two of them. They melted back into the brush. Throwing the muddied water in the direction of one of them I heard a splash; he’d fallen or jumped into the creek, the cliff-edge of which is hidden in the growth.
The circumstance became normalized, with me routinely putting out food. The cat started coming out before I left the food behind. He relaxed into this routine and started coming to the food before I left. I even petted him once–noting there was no indication of sickness. Even this hasn’t managed to shed the fat off him. He allowed me to pet him, but I didn’t try to bring him in until I decided the farce must end and I must, at least in this instance, finally do the normal thing–capture him and take him to the vet.
So I grabbed hold of him and maneuvered him through the hole in the fence. Somehow he ended up on my shoulder, upside down. He squirmed halfway out of my grip so I followed him to the ground and trapped him there. I had badly hurt both hands days earlier and had no grip strength in my left hand at all; trying to hold him to me using mostly my palms I wrestled with him until he slipped out from under me and back into the brush.
And there he remains.