Wild Midnight Magic

slice-of-life_individualI’m still not sure which woke me first–Kurt whispering intensely, “Molly, do you hear them?” or the sounds themselves. Stumbling up through layers of sleep, I half sat to listen. Kurt leaned closer to the window. The air around us seemed to vibrate with yips and howls. I recognized the sound immediately: Coyotes. But, I’d rarely heard them so loud before. They must have been close. Really close.

I still remember the first time we heard coyotes after moving to Maine. How we wondered at first what they were. How they sounded to us then– like a pack of drunks spilling out into the streets after last call at the bars. Howling and yipping. Wild with revelry. I smile now thinking how our city life translated into country.

We’ve heard them many times since, and last night, decades later, we listened to them again.

“Just listen to them!”
“They’re so loud. Are they down in the field?”

We whispered back and forth, as outdoors, the volume rose and then stayed steady, never receding. I’m not sure why we whispered.  Was it instinctive?  A need to stay unnoticed by this roving pack of predators? Or perhaps we whispered in deference to the wild magic of that midnight moment. 

Still listening, I imagined the coyotes moving through the snow. Slipping through shadows. Their breath frosting in the frigid air. Their strong, lean bodies dark silhouettes. Loud, fierce and free.

And then, just like that, their calls stopped. As if a switch had turned. The sudden silence felt like an echo.

After a moment, I lay back down, pulling the blankets up around my shoulders. I wondered if coyote prints outlined a path across the field, or perhaps even a circle in the side yard beneath our window.

So close. So loud. So fierce and free.

I tumbled back into sleep, thinking of coyotes.

 

 

Entranced

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IMG_4071.jpgI wasn’t planning on going down to the river yesterday morning. Then, I looked outside and saw the dramatic bands of red, purple and blue. How could I resist? I put down my pen and started getting dressed.

By the time I arrived, the light was still low, but the drama of the pre-sunrise sky had already dimmed. My friend, Roger, arrived shortly after I did, and bundled in our layers of down, we waited and watched the morning unfold around us. 

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Suddenly a loud cry filled the air.

“Whoa! What was that?” I asked, turning to Roger in surprise.

“An eagle?” Roger suggested hesitantly.

“I think it might have been a fox,” I said, looking down the river toward the origin of the sound.

The noise came again. Then, after a brief pause, again. It’s hard to describe a fox’s cry, but it is piercing and somewhat eerie. (click here to listen)

“That’s definitely a fox, Roger,” I said.

We both looked around us, trying to find the source of the call, scanning the opposite shoreline, following the repeating cries.

“Oh! Look! Look! There it is!! Do you see?”

“Where?” Roger asked.

“It’s over on the other shore, just a little ways in from the point.”

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I pointed and Roger followed my not-so-clear directions until he saw it as well.

Over the next few minutes, the fox lingered, calling repeatedly. Roger and I took photo after photo. After a bit, I moved to a different vantage point, slightly closer to the fox. Even as I took the pictures, I knew they probably wouldn’t turn out well due to the the dim light and the distance. When not taking pictures, I watched the fox move along the shore, periodically stopping and crying. What a beautiful creature with those velvet black legs, russet coat, white chest and lush tail! It moved so gracefully, loping along the shore, stopping, calling. Entrancing.

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After about 5 minutes or so, the fox slipped around the corner and out of sight. Not long afterward, Roger and I went our separate ways.

All day long my mind drifted back to that moment at the river. To the piercing calls. The far away silhouette. The beauty of that lone fox wandering along the icy shore at dawn. The moment still feels so big. So memorable. I’m flooded with gratitude for having been in that place at that time. It is nice to have a photo or two, even if they are a bit blurry. But really, I don’t need one. Not at all.

 

 

Feeling Stupid and Lucky

slice-of-life_individualDSC_1005.jpgDriving away from a dawn photo session by a local river, I looked over my left shoulder. The sun was just rising, and color streaked the sky. I pulled over to the berm to pause and once again admire the evolving view. It really was lovely.

Just one more picture,  I thought.

I grabbed my camera, jumped out of the car, and walked across the road. The power lines were in the way, so I moved a bit further away to avoid them. I crouched down, angled this way and that, and took a few photos.DSC_1010.jpg

Snap!

The sound barely registered as I focused on capturing the golden rays and the reflection on the river.

Crackle! Snap! SNAP!

Huh? What was that? 

SNAP! SCRATCH! SNAP! SNAP!

I turned to look, as simultaneously my neurons fired in nervous anticipation of the answer.

Oh, no!

Oh, yes!

I hadn’t!

I had!

I knew it before I even saw it. Dread trickled down my spine.

Intent on my photo op, I must have left the car in drive.

Sure enough, my car had already rolled down the road away from me. It had now begun a descent into the side growth, crushing bushes and twigs in its path. Even as I looked, my mouth agape, it continued on its path …

Snap, crackle!

SNAPSNAPSNAP!

I ran.

It rolled.

Finally, it stopped.

I kept running until I reached it.

I looked at the slant of the car. At the wet, wet ground below it from the 3 inches of rain we’d had the day before. At the tree that had stopped its full descent. At the morass of weedy swamp in front of the tree.

I assessed for about one second. Then, I jumped in, put it into reverse and praying, stepped slowly but firmly on the gas.

SCRAPE! SNAP! Crack! SC-R-A-P-E!

Moving….

m-o-v-i-n-g….

Scrape! Crunch! Crackle! Crack!

skidding, slipping….

regripping…

moving…

Slowly but surely my trusty little Subaru extricated itself from the pit of my stupidity.

In a moment I was back safely on the side of the road. The sun was still casting lovely rays. My heart was beating madly and my hands were gripping the steering wheel. This time I put the car firmly in park.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I whispered over and over and over again, interspersed with “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!”

After I’d settled down a bit, I took a breath and slowly steered back onto the road. I drove home shaking the entire way, imagining all the what ifs from bad to worse: What if it had been stuck? What if it had been damaged? Or totaled? What if it had gone the other direction and into the river? What if it had hit another car? What if it had injured someone?

“Oh, my God! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

I felt unbelievably stupid and unbelievably lucky.

 

 

 

Let It Snow!

slice-of-life_individualLast Friday, I puttered about after work–picked up the room, prepared materials for this week, chatted with my colleagues. Dark descended (which isn’t saying much since the sun set at 4:02 pm), and before I knew it, it was 6 pm. I gathered up my things, said goodbye to my one remaining colleague, and rushed out the door.

As I burst out of the building, I was startled to see that it had started to snow. I stopped.

“Oh, it’s snowing!” I called out, not sure if I was talking to myself or to my friend.

I stepped out into the cold, dark night and smiled, delighted by the unexpected scene. The parking lot lights shone on the few remaining cars.  Above the lights, the skies were dark and appeared empty, but within their cone of light, auras of snowflakes glowed. The wet, dirty parking lot was transformed. I watched the flakes appear as their paths took them from darkness into the light. Magical. I stood, transfixed, watching the spectacle. Twisting, turning, sparkling, falling. A grace of snow. 

After a moment, I started toward my car, a new buoyancy in my step, and began singing,

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
but the fire is so delightful.
And since we’ve no place to go…
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let is snow!”

I continued singing all the way across the parking lot. It occurred to me that someone else might be out there, might hear me singing, but I didn’t really care. It was the end of a long week, the snow was a vision of wonder, and I was heading home. It was definitely a night for singing.

“Well, it doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve brought some corn for popping.
The lights are turned way down low.
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”

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Spam Diving

slice-of-life_individualEvery so often I look through my blog’s spam file. Once in a while, a legitimate comment will go astray, and I like to rescue it from its sojourn in the bad neighborhood.

Scanning spam comments is often boring, sometimes depressing, and occasionally humorous. I don’t even understand what function these comments serve. I mean, who benefits from me buying Amoxycillin on line? And who actually buys Amoxycillin from a blog comment advertisement? There are about a dozen related messages in my file right now, exhorting me to buy Amoxycillin on line. How does that even make sense?

Then there are the messages that seem to be trying to get me to use a different blogging system or web site or something. First, they pump me up,

“you aгre judt extremely fantastic. I actually like what you’ᴠe received right here, certainly like what you’re sayinbg and tthe best way
by whicһ you ѕay it. Yoou are making it entertaining
aand yyou continue to cаre for to stsy it smart.”

Then they go on to offer a different platform. Their effort typically does not inspire me to try their product. I remain hopeful that this one was written by a poorly designed computer program, rather then by a poorly educated human.

Spam comments definitely cluster around certain posts, and it’s interesting to note which posts attract the most comments. I have no idea how it works. For example, my post entitled “Raccoons and Cherita” has garnered a lot of spam. Why?! I really wonder about the algorithm that targets those specific words! This response amused me recently:

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The original blog post featured a poem about raccoons raiding my bird feeders. Apparently this commenter has an ongoing raccoon problem and is assuming that I’m now an expert in stymying raccoons.  They are sorely misled. The raccoons win pretty consistently.  My favorite line is the final line: “Having a look forward to look you.” I think I need to start saying that. I like the active feel of “having a look forward.” It’s much more interesting than saying “anticipating” .

Finally, my newest spam favorite, written recently in response to a three-year-old blog post about teaching struggles, is this one:

“I apologise that, I can help nothing. But it is assured, that you will find the correct decision. Do not despair.”

I love that they know their limits, yet offer empathy and a wonderful blanket reassurance. It’s so nice to know that someone cares and that they have confidence in me to work it all out.

If you have a bit of time to spare, you might just want to take a dive into your Spam file. You never know what you might find!

 

 

Once upon a bedtime…

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At the end of a long day, I lay in bed, reading, snuggled up in flannel sheets and multiple layers of blankets. Sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Then, uninvited, a thought niggled its way into my mind.

You forgot about the moon.

Oh, drat! I’d meant to try to capture a few moon photos. When I had come home late in the afternoon, I’d noticed the birch tree was rimed with a thin layer of ice. It sparkled in the house lights and I’d thought it might be really spectacular lit by the full moon. I could just imagine the photo–glowing orb, glistening branches.

Now it was hours later, and I’d forgotten all about it. Until now. Now, when I was drowsy. And warm and cozy. And the temperatures were in the teens outside. If I was lucky.

I kept reading.

You’re gonna miss it! 

I turned the page.

The moon won’t be full for another month, and how often are the branches coated with ice?

I read on.

It could be amazing! The conditions are ideal! 

I read another half page…

You know you won’t regret it if you get up. But you won’t get the shot if…

Ugh! Fine! I put the book down. I might as well just get up. 

I slid out of bed, careful to leave the sheets and blankets as intact as possible, hoping they’d hold my warmth and welcome me back after my arctic dip outside.

Downstairs, I fiddled with my camera and set up the tripod. After throwing on a coat, boots, and hat, I stepped outside. The moonlight was brilliant on the snow, and cast deep shadows around the trees. I walked out to the driveway and set up, already happy that I’d made the effort.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that, although it was beautiful out, I was not going to get the shot I’d envisioned. I couldn’t figure out how to deal with the light issues and simultaneously capture the close branches and the distant moon. I took a few photos anyway. Click. Click.

Crack!

My heart jumped. Huh? 

Crack!

I glanced behind me.

Ooookay. It’s dark. It’s cold. And I am NOT the only thing out here.

Crack!

Crunch!

I tensed. Something was definitely moving around near the barn. Something that sounded big!

Possum? Raccoon? No, not big enough… A deer?  A herd of deer?

C-R-A-C-K!

A herd of angry deer? A homicidal maniac?  

Grabbing the tripod and camera, I quickly abandoned the moon. I hustled back to the house, glancing nervously over my shoulder as I went.

Once inside, I shut the door behind me with relief and vigorously turned the lock. I put everything away and climbed back upstairs to our bedroom, eager to return to bed.

“What were you doing?” Kurt asked, looking up from his book as I entered the room.

“I went outside to take some pictures.”

“Oh, the moon,” he said, nodding, knowing me well.

“Yeah,” I said, “but it wasn’t great. I couldn’t figure out how to do what I wanted.”

I paused dramatically. “And something else was out there, too! I heard crunching branches by the barn!”

“Was it the deer?” he asked.

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed, “It was something big, and I wasn’t sticking around to find out!”

He shot a grin my way. “So, you scampered back inside, huh?”

“Yup,” I said. “I scampered right back inside!”

He does know me well.

Smiling, I slipped back under the covers.

I had braved the cold, attempted the photo, escaped the clutches of a raging homicidal maniac and was now back where I belonged.

I picked up my book.

Sheer, unadulterated bliss.

A Rewarding Detour

slice-of-life_individualAfter a beautiful hike along some coastal waterways, we were heading home. Kurt was hungry and looking forward to getting some food. I was driving, contemplating which way to go.

I have multiple routes around “town.” There’s the 10 minute take-the-highway efficiency route for speedy errands, or a variety of more meandering routes. My favorite way home takes me on back roads past the Muddy River and then over the Cathance River. There are a few stunning vistas over Merrymeeting Bay along the way. You never know what you might see.

“So, how hungry are you,” I asked, glancing over at Kurt.

“Why?”

“Well, do you care if I go the longer way home?”

“That’s okay,” he said.

“I won’t go the longest way,” I said, “but I would like to check out what’s by the Cathance.”

I took the requisite turn, and we drove along companionably in the late afternoon, quiet and comfortably tired from our afternoon trek.

As we neared a potential detour, I shot another glance at Kurt.

“Sometimes I like to turn and go down by The Muddy from this end, ” I ventured hopefully.

“Go ahead,” Kurt said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He nodded, and I made the turn happily and continued to chatter, “You know,” I said, “I haven’t seen anything here at all recently except for one lone cormorant. But I figure if I keep coming, I’m bound to see something sometime.”

We crested the hill, and I slowly drove toward the bridge, both of us scanning the landscape. The sun arced from low-lying clouds and the river sparkled. The last vestiges of fall color spotted its banks and reflected warmly in the water. The tree branches shifted and the marsh grasses stirred in the breeze. The bursting cattails arrowed upward. It was beautiful, but there wasn’t a bird in sight. Not on the water. Not in the sky.

“Look!” Kurt whispered urgently, grabbing my arm.

“What!?! Where?” I said, hitting the brakes to stop in the middle of the road, and scanning the water.

“An eagle. Right there!” he pointed.

Sure enough, in a tree by the road, a bald eagle perched on a branch, looking over the river.

“Oh, isn’t he beautiful.”

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I put the car in park right there in the middle of the road (country roads, remember?) and grabbed my camera. Kurt rolled down his window and leaned back out of the way, while I snapped picture after picture.

Then we just sat and admired him for a while.

Sometimes you have to take that detour. Sometimes you have to take it more than once. And sometimes, you might just end up in the right place at the right time.