Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Inconvenience of Favor

What follows is a rather longish tale of nature cramping my bliss.

When we first moved to this house, I was young and had never been outdoors alone up until the time I had my own backyard. For what was probably two nights and yet remembered as three years--until we adopted Pookie--I'd step into the backyard alone after dark I wouldn't go much further than the door. I'd lean on the house and stare into the darkness under the trees, where the deserted house behind us lurked with its shed full of cats. Even the cats couldn't entice me to stray. I had my own, after all.

Some twenty-seven years later, my Sunday treat of the Top 20 countdown on 101.1 CBS-FM featured the music of September 21, 1981. Songs I knew from when everything here was fresh and new, although not dry--and I'm looking at you, basement.

My grandfather once explained to one of our neighbors that I went outside at that hour to unwind and meditate. She told me this at his funeral, and until that point I'd never thought about it, really. I just went out there, because it was quiet, because I could think out there. He was right. I've told him so many times out there under the stars, even though I'm usually up past his bedtime these days.

So twenty years after we built a swing capable of suspending my larden, leaden ass, I'd slapped a fresh coat of stain on the frame earlier that day, and the weather was nice, and my two brave little man-cats escorted me out at 10PM, just as the station ID and 1981 into was playing. The fun time was promised.

Only this time of the year is when young raccoons strike out on their own, looking for a tree to call their own. It happens every summer, a wayward woodland creature stumbles upon the enchanted forest and surprises the hell out of me. Usually the cats know it's there before I do, and so if they both have their attention riveted to the same spot for more than one Moody Blues song, I can be sure it isn't a moth.

Since the last power outage I have this LED headlamp that I strap onto my wrist, because the idea of searching for two small black things in the dark during a power outage while outdoors at night just wasn't very appealing. I'm sure the neighbors are used to me, but they probably wonder why I was crouching on the ground, waving what appears to be Iron Man's heart around at random things. It's the only way I see the eyes, you see.

The raccoon was just as surprised to see me when he came prancing along the fence. I yelled politely as possible to scare him away long enough to carry the cats in, but this raccoon, he's getting used to us, and for one second looked as if he were thinking, "Oh, you want to talk to me? Shall I come over--no? Oh, okay," just before slipping down into the darkness of the other yards.

Once the cats were safely indoors, I came back out. ELO was on, after all. When you see the shadows falling, when you hear that cold wind calling, Jeff Lynne said to hold on to my dreams. It's where I think, after all. I've gotten heat in the past for going back outside when there are potentially rabid things around, but my reasoning for not thinking about that is that I'm perfectly capable of inflicting deadly unfortunateness on myself merely my vacuuming. It's where I meditate.

People with small kids, ADD, small kids with ADD, or even adults our pets who have the power to wait exactly just long enough for you to begin to form a thought before interrupting will probably know how I felt when the raccoon popped by again to see if I was quite sure I didn't want to talk to it. I told it I was and once again requested it leave. "But, but, you've got nice trees," it seemed to be saying. "Couldn’t I just...?"

The cats wanted to come back out. They let me know, you see. The Fluffy One is a mountaineer and he long ago discovered that batting the chain that keeps the back door from opening too wide against the glass makes a loud enough sound to carry over, say, Private Eyes by Hall & Oates. This routine of going in and out for the hour usually kicks in with the cooler weather, and this night could have been so cool. They went back in after I annoyed them sufficiently, scanning the area with the Phial of Galadriel at least a dozen times and finding nothing but leaves and a few amorous slugs.

Before we moved here, some time in September of 1981, we were packing up books while HBO played music videos. They did that back then, you know. One of them was Queen of Hearts by Juice Newton, and Sunday it was the #4 song from that date in history. I was amused.

The top three songs were spent hovering near my cats as they ate some grass. I edged closer and closer to the house with them, looking into the darkness under the trees, barely able to see the light of the house behind us through the dense leaves of all the hedges I've grown.

We made it home alive, and the raccoon hasn't been seen since, but the fear that once told me something was out there now knows one possible fate that awaits me if I'm not sharp, if I'm too busy living in my head.

I was grateful it rained after that. I'm considering pruning the trees a bit more severely so I can see better, even my grandfather's cherry tree. I'm getting old for lack of my Zen moments.

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