Still Treading Lightly

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota.Ah, one sentence written and still no politics in this post. It feels good, actually.It feels like this might be the specific week that marks the transition from late summer to early fall. Outside the air is still warm, but it feels cool. If you live in a place where seasons change, this will make sense to you. It explains why here in Minnesota we are running around in shorts when it is 5o degrees in April and wearing a sweater when it is 50 degrees in September.But outside now -- judging by the count of cricket chirps -- I would say it is a comfortable 60 degrees or so just shortly after sunset. That is a little too warm for the light jacket I wore on my walk. I am still waiting for those nights when the setting sun means the air will be crisp and frosty. There is plenty to look forward to.I took my typical walk down along Lake Harriet, past the band shell, and then into the woods at the Roberts Bird Sanctuary. As the days shorten this walk becomes much more exciting; dusk is an especially interesting time to be in the woods. The bird sanctuary borders Lakewood Cemetery, a perfect touch in the fall season.Tonight was especially still and quiet. More than once I thought I heard something moving in the woods and discovered it was only a leaf falling from a tree. Birds and things move much more quietly this time of the day.At some point I noticed the sound of crickets and frogs had filled the quiet around me. This is much like that "white noise" we experience, but so much better. It really is something. And still the squirrels and things moved in the trees without a sound. They seem to have so much more confidence and swagger as the woods grow dark. They're intimidating, almost. There's a sense of a some kind of plot being set up by the squirrels and I expect them to turn on me at any moment. But they don't.In cemetery tonight I noticed two deer squaring off and butting heads. I guess that's what they do in the fall. I had never seen it before and I had to go to the wilds of inner Minneapolis to find it.I took a video of the deer, but I cannot figure out how to load a video clip on WordPress! (Maybe someone can help.) It isn't the clearest video anyway, alas...I am still using only my camera phone for most photos. (And I think I do ok with my camera phone. Mathew Brady did great things with a wooden box after all.) I climbed through the brush to get to the cyclone fence separating the bird sanctuary from the cemetery and took some pictures. In the low light I'm afraid I didn't get much. I did see this thing, though...what is it? It appears to be a pagan something-or-other and it is tied to a tree facing the cemetery. I kept an eye open for trouble for the rest of my walk. You never know. (Ever see The Wicker Man?)While I was watching the deer and hanging out with pagan talismans, I heard a raccoon nearby...or at least what I think was a raccoon. Keep in mind that what I know raccoons to sound like is based on watching Gentle Ben as a boy, so I might have been wrong. Regardless, whatever it was was loud and near. I lingered for a minute longer at the fence and decided I better keep walking. I was starting to feel spooked.And when I got back on the path, guess what I saw coming up on to the path a few yards ahead of me...yes, a racoon! A big one, too. The night before I stumbled upon a group of them crossing the path. It was about the same time of the night and they startled me. In fact, I shouted a silly, "Woo! Raccoons!" Half of them kept walking and the other half turned back into the dark bushes. The raccoon I saw tonight stopped, stared, and ... I swear it is true ... shrugged his shoulders impatiently before turning back toward the brush.The woods were dark now. Shades of greys and deep blues mostly. Ironically, I thought, the only light was in the cemetery. It shined like a refuge. The deer seem to enjoy it. And I started to think about Harold and Maude. It's the cemetery connection, I think. It might be time to watch that film yet again. I do kind of wish it had been a series, like All Creatures Great and Small, that I could enjoy in an episodic way for weeks instead of repeatedly two hours at a time. I have no idea how many times I have watched Harold and Maude, but it is a lot and I'm not certain why. I keep thinking I am learning something when I see the film. Can you learn something without knowing what it is?I'm sure I have learned a lot from All Creatures Great and Small. Well, wait...let me back up...I have seen outstanding examples of what I should be learning -- how to handle stress and hardship with style, dignity, and a pint of bitters, for example -- but I am not convinced I have yet learned how to apply these examples into my own routine of stress and such. I'll watch Harold and Maude tonight and see if I can sort out what I should be learning there...But back to my walk.I will own up to becoming irrationally uneasy in the woods as I continued. But I'll also admit to finding some thrill in that. If someone had unexpectedly appeared from behind a tree, I would have shrieked like a child. This reminds me of a tip, in a roundabout way. While walking in the woods looking for wildlife, it is useful to turn around every so often and look behind you. You will be surprised at how often you see an animal back there watching you walk away. It is also a good way to protect yourself from The Headless Horseman and other creepy things that lurk in the woods at night.I did seem to be sneaking up on a lot of small animals. My shoes are exceptionally quiet, which reminds me that I need to contact the good people at Filson and complain about my squeaky Highlander Boots for which I spent a nice sum. My pals call me squeaky when I wear them. They are more of an annoyance than anything. Silence in the woods is important, but I doubt it is the most important thing a person on the prowl needs to worry about. Most animals will smell you before they see or hear you. Sometimes I think if you just go plowing through the woods you might blend in better anyway...maybe get mistaken for a moose or a bear. The animals might know the difference, but fellow hikers on the trail might not know the difference.Make sure hunters have a good ethic and shoot only at what they can see. (More on hunting in a post to follow.)As you can see I survived my stroll through the woods. I did see another racoon. (He seemed rather impatient with me, too, before turning back on the path and walking away.) And I saw a rabbit...oh, I have to talk about the rabbit. Bear with me. This rabbit stayed on the path ahead of me for a good twenty yards. I'm not sure why it did not dart into the brush like the other rabbits, but then...how does it turn out in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?...I thought I might be falling for a trap, so I turned and went down another path which...went deeper into the woods! Then I thought...Aha! So that is it! You want me to over think this and go down that path!...so I turned back around quite smartly and -- poof! -- the rabbit was gone.Guess what...I think I outsmarted a rabbit! And with that, I will leave you alone.Lake Harriet Sunset. Walking Home.

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