Thursday, September 6, 2012

Close Encounters of the Moose Kind

I took the above video in order to illustrate the peacefulness of the swaying aspens outside of our living room window, but what ended up coming through more ominously was the seemingly amplified ticking of the living room clock.  This winsomeness doth tend towards time-wasting, the clock seemed to declare, and I have to admit, it had a point.  I am under the gun, so to speak.  The Year of Being Brave has a timeline that can run out: it is a finite goal, and when I am tempted to treat my time here as just one long lollygagging vacation, the truth is that time looms large.  And so, I have responded with internal deadlines of my own: setting dates that characters' arcs will be completed and a date when I want to be done drafting and headed into revising (around December).

Two nights ago, I made the ill-advised decision to climb the small butte behind our house in the waning twilight.  I was treated to some spectacular sunset views at the top:

However, on the way down, I quickly realized my error in attempting to dismount in the encroaching darkness on a switchbacking trail wearing flimsy Tom's (total non-local move).  Using my phone as a flashlight, I stumbled down, taking twice as long as it would normally take, and set off on the bike path that curves through most of the valley and provides a beloved trail for bikers, dog walkers, and foolish pedestrians walking home in neighborhoods with no streetlights.  Relying on my familiarity with the path, I entered a section with a church parking lot and bushes to one side and homes on the other.  My phone died and all went dark.  At that exact moment, I heard the crashing of brush and twigs and one gigantic shape loomed ahead of me in the darkness, followed by another, slightly less tall dark shape.  I did the smart thing, and completely froze.  I knew a huge moose was standing just yards from me, and that the smaller shape was most definitely a moose calf.

Now, one thing about moose--they do not crash out spastically from the brush like deer and run every which way, alerting you to their presence while also revealing their fear of you.  Moose just stand there and stare at you, either aggressively or nonchalantly, and it's up to you to give them a wide berth, especially if they have young whom they'll want to protect...with their hooves.  So, locked into a staredown, I backed up, and up, and crashed through some underbrush of my own in order to cut across lawns and parking lots and come back to the trail far from where I'd encountered them.  And, just for good measure, I started to run.

The next morning, our dog Bodhi bayed and alerted us to the presence of not two, but three moose grazing on our neighbors' yard shrubbery.  Mama in actuality has two calves!  In another classic non-local move, I retrieved my camera and crept closer.  I stared at the two calves (probably up to my shoulders in height) and they stared back, unblinking, arranged identically side by side.  And then, once more, the cow--that huge, looming shape from the night before--lurched out and raised herself to full height.  Daylight staredown: engaged.  I knew my cue and hightailed it away, scampering on the driveway in bare feet.  As I fell asleep last night, I'm almost certain I heard the same moose crossing over our back deck during the witching hour.  Neither patron saints or goblins, the moose family are placidly going about their existence, and their neighborhood just happens to be mine.  I feel pretty lucky.
Second calf is hidden in the brush to the right.

I leave you with a few images from my last week about and around:

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