My longer morning walk – to work – is a path described by John as the path through the woods to the ….(he almost said “evil witch”, but quickly substituted)… dark-haired siren’s lair. A Hansel and Gretel parable suited to the Turks, now that I think about it, since I’m far enough from everyone that no one would hear the dying woman’s screams. Also appropriate since I found a great cartoon at the beginning of the building process of a witch sitting in an architect’s office, looking over the plans he’d drawn up, saying “this is great, but can you do it in gingerbread?” Roger and his crew were in stitches over that one. Nevertheless, my underground/gingerbread house is solid as a rock. My friend Forrest came over the other night and I didn’t even hear him pull up in his diesel pick up. There could be a hurricane outside and I’d never know it. Someone call me up if there’s a nuclear holocaust.
Don’t send Forrest, though, since I think he’s already getting ideas which need to be vigorously ignored. He’s one of those guys who entertains thoughts and conveys his interest covertly, but is so busy entertaining and conveying and being covert that he misses my replies. He invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and I declined in favor of staying home – which I told him plainly – and he keeps on trying. He’s a very nice guy, and I don’t mind having a few beers with him now and again, but that’s it. You can’t tell a guy you aren’t interested before he declares his interest; its not nice. I did hint that I was gay, though. Whatever it takes.
Putative suitors aside, let me get back to my path. I get to walk to work in the dark, or in moonlight, which is a treat. The world is a completely different place in moonlight. It’s a little like walking through a photo negative, with profound changes in perspective. My narrow, snowy path doesn’t look like a path at all, but just like any other slight space between the tall, thin trees. Sometimes I have to turn on my flashlight to look for footprints in the snow to be sure I’m on it. This morning found me shining the flashlight all around, even though it was just about light enough to see because there were spooky sounds emanating from the dark. First I heard a sound like an animal screaming in its death throes. Not a large animal; there were no elk or bears being murdered out there, but perhaps a fox. And what nocturnal predators would pounce on a fox?
A mountain lion, of course. We have our fair share of mountain lions around here. I’ve seen their tracks, and once I even saw the hind end of one sprinting away from me. A mountain lion hunter I know once told me that mountain lions avoid dogs, no matter what size, so I’d be safe with Allie by my side. But today Allie is at home, guarding the house, not me. Its dark. The wind has changed to the north. The trees are rustling together, and squeaking. I remember the stories of mountain lions stalking people and pouncing on them. No visions of Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger are dancing in my head, make no mistake about that. Fear acts like a quickly mounting wave, feeding itself gluttonously until it’s so fat you almost can’t resist breaking into a run to burn off the calories. But don’t, for mountain lions, like dogs, tend to chase whatever they see running away. I think it’s in the doggie union rules: If It Runs, Chase It. No Questions.
Anyway, there I was, with my heart pounding, my stomach churning, palms sweating, acutely aware of the physical manifestations of my over-active imagination, and also aware that I was just in the area where Chance the dog has, more than once, for no apparent reason burst out barking, and running around, sniffing out trails. I’d always thought it was just a particularly nearby deer, but maybe it was a cat! Maybe even a saber-toothed tiger! Its been stalking me for days now. Marking the time when I pass. Probably writing it all down in a little book – or a blackberry, more likely, with GPS capabilities. They don’t say cats are smart for nothing. Or maybe it was just some branches rubbing together in the wind.
I’ve got to go now. Its time for me to look up some witchy spells to keep wild animals away. Boo!