It being a starry night I thought I might have some luck

A couple of years ago I got the bright idea to wander around in the dark with a walking stick and a dim flashlight over near the tree line. Being a lover of owls I figured the best time to see their magnificence was when they left their hidey holes and headed out for the nightly banquet. I’ve looked for my elusive hootie owl for the past two years and followed the hoots down the driveway or around the side field or just about anyplace else I might catch a glimpse. It’s never happened. But I’m hopeful.

It was all going pretty smoothly last night and it being a starry night I thought I might have some luck. I’ve discovered that being prepared is what it’s all about. Being prepared. That does not mean using your iPhone light as a search light or wearing sloppy pants and no socks and an old pair of barn shoes your mother would make you throw out. But there I was taking my cataracts for a walk and the dark for granted.

It seemed quiet and I was enjoying the stars and the peace until I heard a grunt coming from about twenty feet north of me. This bothered me. I know of a few animals that will grunt at you. Rabbits will grunt but those are tiny angry grunts and being rabbits they tend to be pretty close to ankle height. But this grunt came from my height. In the woods. In the dark.

My father, who was a keen woodsman, always told me to be quiet and not panic. So I didn’t. Maybe a little but it was one grunt and we don’t have any wild boar or grizzly bears or much else that might eat you. But we do have deer. Deer grunt when they’re miffed about something. Moose will grunt as a warning but we don’t have any moose around here. I went with deer. In fact, I had myself convinced there was a deer in the woods about twenty feet north of me and I could go on with my stargazing.

That’s about the time I decided to double check and made the mistake of verifying my theory by shining my iPhone light right at the grunt. At that point I knew I had been a bit of a Pollyanna about what’s out and about in the forest near my house at night. Two sets of eyes looked back at me. Two sets of eyes that were at my height and looking at me from behind a bank of jewelweed. Not moving. At least until one of them let out a screech. It wasn’t loud but it wasn’t a “how do you do” either.

I thought the jig was up and my legs grew roots and I was stuck there to the ground in the side field in the dark. Yelling was not going to achieve much other than riling up my two companions. If I was lucky I was going to have enough time to hobble back to the house while walking with a straight back and pawing the ground with my walking stick.

It wasn’t the time to think about how people consider themselves rulers of the animal kingdom and the earth but lacking a gun or fire for protection don’t do much when faced with the potential to be part of the food chain except pee their pants and turn tail and run. I like to think animals will get the better of us. Maybe it’s time to bring back the dinosaurs or the saber tooth tiger and turn them loose to right the balance again.

My nocturnal visitors allowed me to shuffle home but I knew they could have left their shelter behind the jewelweed and come my way. I grew up in the country in northeastern Vermont and have a pretty good idea when I am being let off the hook. Maybe I wasn’t of interest because they knew I meant no harm. I’d like to think that. It makes me feel a little less like an outsider in the natural world.

Tonight I might venture just outside the pool of barnyard light but no further. Once is a gift. Twice might not bring me luck.


About Phyllis Alberici

Hanging a few lanterns in the darkness. Let me know how it's going.
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