Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nature bites

My cottage is my sanctuary. It's the quiet place I go when life is moving too fast. I also go for the nature. I love nature. And when I say nature, I mean chickadees and flowers and fluffy clouds. Nice nature.

I've seen foxes, hares and deer frolicking in my hostas, though not all at the same time. I have nesting sharpshin hawks in our white pine, chipmunks in the rock garden and a woodchuck in the wood pile. We even saw two baby moose galloping down the middle of the road. Sometimes the sheer number of birds, chipmunks and red squirrels milling about the feeder seem almost Disney-esque, especially when the chipmunks take peanuts out of our hands.

But then the neighbours talked of several bear sightings.

Last summer, I was alone and preoccupied making chicken wraps for a swim meet. I had about twenty pounds of warm, spicy chicken cooling on my deck when suddenly, I heard something crashing about in the woods. Whatever "it" was, it was rustling and moving bushes and was big enough to break branches underfoot. Not a deer, which are more sure-footed. Not something small, like a raccoon. Nothing Disney about this noise.

Dressed in a bright red sundress and armed with a three dollar plastic mosquito zapper, I ventured outside for a look. The thought did occur to me that this was like the part in any horror movie when the audience shouts "Look out behind you! Get back in the house!"

I tried not to make a sound on the gravel driveway and stopped beside the woodpile. I strained to hear or see the source of the rustling and held my breath. At that moment, the resident woodchuck popped out of the woodpile for his evening constitutional and - clearly not expecting a human, dressed in a red sundress and smelling of Italian chicken - he squeaked his annoyance and caused me to start so violently, that I came as close as I've ever come as an adult to filling my pants. I beetled back to the house, and left whatever was in the bushes to its business, and the woodchuck to his woodpile. My husband, of course, didn't believe me.

Later, I took this photo on the back step:

You tell me...


Laura Lundquist said...

Toes are too long for a bear.
Looks like a large raccoon to me.

Michelle said...

We live in rural Scotland and I'm originally from Africa so these footprints do nothing to my (highly limited) tracking skills!

I sympathise with the nearly-pants thing. When we first moved out here I was throwing garbage away in the pitck dark (at about 5, it gets dark early this far North in Winter) when this "thing" careesed my face.

I think I actually died and resussitated in two seconds. Turned out to be a long "wafty" branch of the willow tree standing behind the garbage bin.

I moved the bin!

Otherwise we've had deer, fox, pheasants, voles, field mice, owls, loads of birds and the cutest stoat playing peekaboo in the garage roof gutter.

Oh.. and several farm cats who like to snooze in the back flower bed. No-one can really do *relax* like a cat.

A Novel Woman said...

Hi Lucky,

That's what I thought at first, but I googled Black Bear and the size and shape are pretty similar. There have been black bear sightings, for sure, I just hope they aren't snooping around my back porch.

A Novel Woman said...

Hey Michelle,

Whereabouts are you in the country? I love Scotland and believe it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. My husband is of Scottish descent, and that's one on our list to visit together.

The willow branch cracked me up. I've done that! I always think spider. Actually, my cat brought in a mouse last night, still alive and bouncing around my bare feet, and I screamed so loud and so long, it was enough to alert the neighbours. My husband, on the other hand, continued to watch his movie. When I asked why he didn't come running, he said, "I thought you'd found another spider."

Michelle said...

We're in Morayshire, North-East Scotland. Lots of trees and rolling hills with mountains only a few hours drive south. :-)

Ewww... I do NOT like spiders, but you really want to hear me scream - bring in a cockroach! one thing I so love about Northern Scotland is no cockroaches, but sad to say still way too many spiders. :-(

A Novel Woman said...

Michelle, having lived in Toronto, I have no problem with roaches. Well, I don't like em, but I don't fear them like spiders.

Beautiful part of the world you live in! Lucky you.