“Nature Red in Tooth and Claw” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Interview with Paul Pepper, KBIA

Dear friends,

Before you read my new post, take a look at this YouTube video — my interview with Paul Pepper (a KBIA show “Radio Friends with Paul Pepper“).


A digital-only version of  my memoir, The Education of a Traitor, will be also released at smashwords.com (it’s already at Amazon) on July 19 — for Apple iBooks, iTunes, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Sony, and PDF.  It is available to pre-order at Barnes and Noble, and it will be free at smashwords.com July 19-25th with a coupon PZ85H.

And now,

“Nature Red in Tooth and Claw”

“It’s raining cats and dogs,” my husband said.

“It sure is,” I said, still – after all my 25 years in America — trying to envision what raining animals would look like.

Pouring rain is common in Missouri, and some years, mowing a lawn once a week no longer cuts it (excuse my pun :)). Yet this summer the grass hasn’t seemed to grow like crazy, while the rest of our plants have.

One day, after work, I walked around the house and realized that our property has turned into a jungle: the trees have spread their branches as if trying to swallow our house, the plants beside our walk have oozed onto it for about a foot, and our deck appears much shadier than I ever remembered it.

The result looks spooky, reminding me of a book I read some time ago–The World Without Us–which postulates that plants could cover all traces of human existence within about a hundred years or so.

“Do you have the feeling that everything is encroaching on us?” I asked my 8896 hhusband.

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “But I do have a feeling that we’re under attack.”

“What attack?” I said, but before I finished my question, something hit our living room window.

“That’s a bird crashing into our window,” my husband said. It’s been doing that all day. I’m surprised you didn’t hear it in the morning.”

“A-a-h, that’s what that racket was about,” I said. “I heard something in the bathroom, but I thought it was a woodpecker.”

“It’s a cardinal,” my husband said. “I had the same problem with a robin in my old house. I had to spread glass wax on the windows to stop him from attacking them.”

“We’re not greasing windows in our living room!” I said firmly, conveying that whatever solution he had found before he married me would not be used now. Yet at that moment, something struck the dining room window, too.

“Why is it doing that?!” I said.

“Some birds gather in flocks, but robins and cardinals are territorial. The males try to chase away competitors, so, when they see their reflection in the window, they attack it,” my husband said, and a series of loud collisions echoed his speech.

IMG_3032This isn’t the first time that nature has altered my American dream. Deer were the first culprits. They ate everything in our yard. I tried to fight them with “Deer-off” and folk remedies like moth balls, strong-smelling soap, human hair (one of my friends is a hair stylist), and a concoction of pepper, hot sauce, and ketchup. In the end, I gave up and planted boxwood bushes everywhere–which deer don’t like.

Then we had mole problems. We put up a good_MG_7356 fight there, too, putting poison inside the molehills, setting traps, and trying to flood the burrows. We came close to answering a newspaper ad that promised to catch moles for a $60 per animal. Finally, we gave up and let the grass grow longer.

Over the years, we’ve also had squirrels digging flowers out of flower pots on our deck (I now have artificial flowers there), groundhogs building burrows under our porches, and raccoons trying to get into our basement. And now, we have cardinals trying to destroy our windows – two of which we just replaced for $1500!

“If you don’t like glass wax, what do you suggest we do?” my husband said.

“I don’t know. Maybe we should get a scarecrow. A toy owl or something,” I said.

_MG_9639Several days later, a large inflatable owl appeared behind our dining room window, looking very ferocious and scaring me every time I accidentally looked at it. The cardinal took notice, too. It stopped striking the window directly in front of the owl and concentrated its efforts on the rest of the window.

“We should change its position,” I offered. “Like it’s moving.”

We did, and I can report that the cardinal never hit the exact spot protected by the owl – just the space immediately around it.

Then I had a Eureka moment: “Let’s put our window screens up!”

“I don’t like screens …,” my husband started to say, but a series of direct hits against his study window changed his mind, so he headed to the garage to look for screens that he had put away years ago because they “obstructed” his view.

These screens didn’t solve the problem completely, but they sure helped — the constant attacks were replaced with occasional sallies, and the sharp blows were replaced with the dull thumps.

Yet the upper, arch-shaped part of our living room window had no screen, and so it became our cardinal’s main battleground.

“Does anybody have problems with birds flying into windows?” I asked my colleagues the next day.

One answered. A winged kamikaze flew into her window and killed itself.

“They don’t see glass,” she said. “So, they just fly through it.”

“What are you going to do?” I said.

“I heard that Songbird Station [a bird supply store] sells a_MG_9840-001 spray that makes glass visible for the birds, but people don’t notice it much.”

This product, which is advertised as a “UV Liquid,” comes in a small canister filled with a whitish translucent substance that is spread in thin lines on the window in decorative patterns–the picture on the package shows a heart. To my dismay, these lines were very visible to us. In fact, we seemed to be the only creatures who noticed my husband’s messy drawing. Our cardinal ignored it completely.

Next my husband bought a stick-on strip of translucent film that he applied to the glass – also from Songbird Station. Now we had two spots the bird avoided: a piece of stained glass, which replaced the inflatable owl, and the strip underneath. The rest of the area became its last stand.

As I’m writing this story, the cardinal is still crashing into our windows, while my husband contemplates covering them with stick-on strips from top to bottom. (He has already smeared glass wax on the doors to the basement and the garage.) The latest development is that we have become so used to constant banging that I sometimes stop worrying about our window (or my headache) and start worrying about whether our cardinal has any time to eat or do other birdy things. But that doesn’t usually last long.

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So, what’s the lesson of this story? I don’t really know. It could be a warning about the power of nature. Or it could be a lesson about futility. After all, don’t we humans do the same sort of thing our cardinal is doing – endlessly repeating the same fruitless attempts, marrying the wrong kinds of people, or doing other self-destructive things? In fact, it could be me who behaves like that cardinal when I try to promote my book, constantly hitting my head on the obstacles imposed by the publishing industry. Should I st15-IMG_5572op? Should all of us stop trying? What are our chances of success?

Well, I guess, if we don’t try, we’ll never know.

©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved


14 thoughts on ““Nature Red in Tooth and Claw” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    • Thank you, Lita, so much! It is great to connect! BTW, I never told you so much I enjoyed the end of your volcano story: “when you go up you always come down and your feet is firmly on the ground if you chose it. The luggage will find us.” So well put!

      P.S. I once tried my “pen” in (almost) play writing:). I was asked to write a 10 minute play, so I though, “How difficult could it be?” It turned out to be very different and rather hard:).

      Have a nice weekend,

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Funny story Svetlana – hope he’s stopped crashing into you by now. We have similar issues here. Have paid a guy several times to get rid of the raccoons who thank goodnes haven’t worked their way indoors yet but seem to use my pool as a toilet area and washing station 😒. We also had a young marsh rat (bigger than a mouse, smaller than a rat) but we actually caught him ourselves before he did much damage. Cardinals don’t bother us thank goodness but we’re always on the lookout for woodpeckers as our house is cedar shingle and others have had serious issues. Anyway, loved your interview – candidly I thought you came across much more intelligent and well-spoken than the interviewer did LOL! Pretty clear he never read the book DUH. Hope all’s well with you and that you’re enjoying summer!


    • Thank you, Tina! I did get your first message, and I’m replying to it right now:). It seems that everybody has some animal problems:(. I guess that comes with the territory. Unlike you, we lose all our wildlife battles. In fact, just yesterday, I broke down and gave my husband the go ahead to smear our windows with something. Now, the windows look terrible, but the cardinal stopped attacking us. On the bright side, I got a story out that episode:).

      As for the interviewer, you’re absolutely correct, he never read the book (the guy who interviewed me on the radio a couple of months ago did). That actually made the interview very stressful (for me, that is), since I had no idea what he’s going to ask.

      I imagine that you’re going to Scotland very soon now. Have fun and many-many pictures!


    • Thank you, Irene! I actually find these interviews rather difficult. Not only do you have to appear somewhat intelligent, you also have to react very quickly — which is not easy for a non-native speaker. And since you never know what questions will be thrown at you, there is no way to prepare (not to mention the accent, pronunciation, etc., all of which intensify when you get nervous).

      On top of that, you also have to try not to repeate the same thing over and over again, which is also hard to do:(. Having said that, I’ll probably have another interview later this summer:).

      Take care!


  2. Your bird-attak story is so amusing! I’ve also dealt with crazy-crashing birds–all robins. For years and every year in Minnesota a robin attacked our car’s outside mirror. (I assumed it was the same bird, year after year; it finally disappeared; it probably died of attack wounds. One kept attacking the window at my Bridge Center–every week at the exact same time, just before sunset. I tried disrupting our lesson and running outside to scare it away–but the poor creature would be at it again before I got myself back into my chair. And yes, my lawns and gardens are taking over. Some call this lush. Lushness? I call it wildness, and I’m thinking I’ll need to have tree people trim back almost all of my trees come September. It’s a jungle out there.

    I loved your posting–but I couldn’t access any U-Tube. Tried and failed.

    Thanks for sharing–it’s really fun! Mary Beth


  3. well done Svetlana- I will look forward to reading your book. I love this post- wonderful read and birds crashing and peering through windows. It’s wonderful living in a rural area isn’t it!! 😀


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