I live in the Pittsburgh area, in the suburbs. Several mornings ago I was up a little earlier than usual, and the sun seemed to be coming up later than usual. I had the opportunity to watch out my kitchen window as dawn came to my neighborhood. Looking one direction out my window gives me a westerly view of the neighborhood below the little hill where my house is situated. There are rows of 1950s houses surrounded by layers of tall bare trees. The trees wind into the distance over gently sloping Appalachian hills as far as the eye can see, probably three miles at most. The yards were covered with snow, which was pale grey in the beginning half-light. The sky was every shade of grey, from white grey to blue grey, wispy layers that would soon blend together. The sun began to rise behind my house. Before me a soft pink shade spread across the browns and greys. I could easily recognize the tree line behind my house superimposed across the trees and houses down the street in front of me. I watched as the sheen of pink flowed down the hills and the shadow of the eastern tree line receded. The neighborhood was waking up to the soft light of winter.
As I started washing dishes I glanced out the same window in the other direction. I can see down the hill if I choose, but also uphill to the woods behind. Two yards over, I saw movement. Looking as closely as I could through the window, I could see a herd of whitetail deer bedded down next to the neighbor’s shed. Each deer was facing a different direction to watch for dogs and other trouble. One had already stood and stretched, and it started gingerly scratching with a hind leg all over, balancing itself like a ballerina as the hoof reached every spot. It reached over its shoulder and licked its fur into place, walked several yards away, and emptied bladder and bowels. As it moved on, it looked for nibbles in the grass. I noticed a couple other white rumps farther up the hill and counted a total six deer that were visible. Meanwhile, another deer stood, stretched, scratched, then groomed in the same way and order as the first one. Another one got up after that, going through the routine. They all had the same sleepy look as early morning commuters or students waiting at a bus stop. I had to go tend to some household duty or other but came back as soon as I could to watch the deer some more. By this time all the deer had performed their morning ritual and were ambling into the tree line. The light changed to a uniform shade that smoothed the sky flat. The day had begun. I felt as though something had awakened in me as well.
2 thoughts on “Guest Post: “Field Notes from Pittsburgh,” by Lora”
This helps me re-imagine the Pittsburgh area, which exists in my memory as a foreboding, steel-factoried region divided with grim rivers.
Oh, and loud with trains.
Thank you for this winter pastoral.
Like they say, at least we’re not Cleveland.
Cleveland says, at least we’re not Detroit.
Detroit says, Wait till Hell Night!
Sorry, eastern humor.
Seriously, the back yard drew me to this house. It’s a half acre, maybe more, and we have planted trees, berry bushes, a garden, swing set, and fort. At the back is the tree line, and the trees make a woods about a quarter mile square. There’s a gas line in the woods which makes it less likely anyone will ever tear into that part for building. The closest neighbors love to make the immediate area wildlife friendly. One morning there were ten deer and twenty turkeys in our yard. We’ve had possums, skunk, a fox, rabbits, hawks, owls, snakes galore, etc. It takes effort to keep a wild spot but then again, it also takes effort to destroy one as well.