Running through a light drizzle and wafts of green-smell today, I thought about raccoons.
I ran by the place on the bluff-top trail where I once turned my head to see an entire family of them arrayed along the length of a tree trunk. The smallest one scrambled up as I watched: a redhead! Everything that is usually dark on a raccoon was ruddy reddish-brown. I stopped to linger with them awhile. They eventually found me dull and paraded down the tree to find something more interesting to do.
Another time along the same trail, I heard a shrill, plaintive cry just off the path. I stopped to listen more closely and realized that a baby raccoon was separated from its mother by the busy trail and a street. Mother hissed her encouragement from the mouth of the sewer across the street. I got out of the way and soon saw the baby make a dash across the busy thoroughfare.
A few years ago I stepped into my office late one night. I noticed a movement out by the clothes pole where the bird feeder hangs. There, balancing her bulk on the slippery, round clothes pole, was a huge raccoon. She had managed to wiggle the cast iron top off my very fancy bird feeder and was stretching her paws down to grab seeds. Hunger made a clever beast more clever. I was happy to reward her determination with a few seeds.
Though I see them often, it is always a gift to encounter their wildness in the midst of this large city. I’m touched by the lives they lead alongside my own.
Here is one more tale told in the form of a poem. May it invite you to share your own raccoon tales…..
In late summer dusk, a stirring at the curb:
a deadpan comedian face pokes out into open air.
One paw lifts.
Shiny eyes sort themselves from a dark mask.
They are full of cub questions.
Behind and under, a boiling of fur:
two heads, then three
stir in the mouth of the storm sewer.
The first tiptoes into the open,
ambles toward the shadows of a parked car.
They slide one by one
from the dark hole like clowns from a jalopy.
One, two, three…..four!
The fifth squeezes through,
flattening her bulk to fit through: the mother.
They tiptoe into the open,
hunch toward the shadows.
Five animals, furred and whiskered and hungry,
instigate their silent invasion under cover of
plane roar, motorcycle growl, sharp-shiny city voices.
They are perfectly, wildly silent.
A man walking toward me startles at my soft call,
but he does not stop in time.
At Mother’s insistent hiss,
the cubs startle, turn on nimble feet,
and are swallowed one after another
down the dark throat of the street.
© Barbara McAfee
Sweet! I had a neighbor who alerted me, one summer evening, to a family of raccoons in her back yard, which was on the edge of a nature park. We watched from her deck as Mama taught the little ones to climb a tree, and we counted 6, 7, 8, no, there were 9 of them that she was leading up the branches. They were little bothered by our flashlight, which we didn’t keep on for too long.