Sunday, April 11, 2010

The end

Isn't this image beautiful? I love the clots of color, and the graceful pale shapes in the center. I find it a soothing image, even though I know what it is: a micrograph of brain tissue damaged by rabies.

When I arrived at the trailhead this morning I saw an adult raccoon curled up on the ground in the middle of a clearing. Not a good sign. Nothing wild ever settles down for a nap on a lawn. The raccoon was lying perfectly still and I assumed it was dead, but I resisted the urge to get a closer look to make sure. Rabies is always a concern here, and that's a natural phenomenon I'd just as soon not learn about firsthand.

As I started down the trail I saw a ranger's truck pulling up next to the clearing. A couple of minutes later I heard a shot behind me. I guess the ranger didn't want to take any chances either. When I came back down the trail there was no sign at all of ranger or raccoon.

Who knows what was wrong with the raccoon--it may have just crawled out there to die after being hit by a car. Whatever the cause, it's sad to think of it struggling, instinct lost, helpless under the open sky.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In the presence of animals

After posting that beautiful Levertov poem, I went walking in the woods Easter morning and encountered some less spiritual wildlife. It was clear and sunny, and couple of days of warm weather have the redbuds blooming. A cardinal was singing his heart out somewhere. I was just thinking how perfectly beautiful it was when I heard a scrabbling sound followed by ferocious snarling. I looked around for the source and discovered it about 10 feet up the trunk of a tree. It took me a second to figure out that I was looking at the rear end of a weasel, pushing his way into a cavity that looked much too small for him. Judging from the contortions of the weasel, his snarling, and the pitiful cries coming from inside the tree, I'd say he was making breakfast out of a chipmunk, or possibly a nesting squirrel. Whatever it was it put up a pretty good fight, but the weasel won. He somehow got his whole bulk into the tree and shortly thereafter the cries stopped. He growled a bit more and then fell silent, too. Busy eating, I assume.

The rest of my hike was serene. As I approached the lake two great blue herons took off toward the rising sun, casting their shadows behind them. A pair of Canada geese flew low over the water in the opposite direction, murmuring to each other in that perfect harmony they have. I came upon a flicker and a pileated woodpecker that were perched on adjoining tree stumps, apparently enjoying each other's company until the woodpecker answered her calling mate and left to join him on the other side of the lake.

Weasel with chaffinch, Bruno Liljefors, 1888