Back in April of 2007 I read this book, When the Wild Comes Leaping Up: Personal Encounters with Nature, edited by David Suzuki. It’s one of those books I’ve carried with me in my mind, even though none of the specific essays come to memory now as I’m reflecting on it. I think I’ll dig it up and read it again. Here’s the synopsis from its Amazon page:
In this eloquent collection, writers from the United States, Canada, the U.K., and Australia describe a personal encounter with the natural world that moved them, enhanced their understanding of nature, changed them, or was in some other way of prime importance to them. These essays describe childhood memories, everyday walks transformed into life-changing events, being in the grip of a great force, and startling encounters with wild animals. They are funny, sad, reflective, exciting, nostalgic, and outlandish. Each one presents a singular experience, and all are beautifully written and deeply felt. Personal encounters with the natural world written by award-winning authors. Some of the award-winning contributors include Margaret Atwood, Diane Ackerman, David Quammen, Rick Bass, and Wade Davis.
I do remember when I finished it I was on a plane, traveling home late at night after a steady run of work travel, feeling disconnected from “real” life. I thought then that I would maybe come up with a couple essays of my own for this blog, but never got around to it. Lately, with the themes I’ve been reconnecting with via my reading, and my own urge to plunge back into the Great Outdoors as spring and summer near, I’ve decided that maybe I’ll start spending some words on that kind of thing a little more frequently. Especially this week, if for no other reason than I feel like it.
Last week, it was Wednesday or Thursday I think, Julia and I were headed to the gym around 8:30 AM or so. It was bright and sunny out. As we turned the corner about a block from our house, a bizarre-looking critter was trotting across the front yards of the houses in front of us. Too oddly-gaited for a dog, it was way too big for a cat — turned out it was a raccoon. A big raccoon. It was the second one I’ve seen in our neighborhood, but this was the first time I’ve seen one in broad daylight. I fumbled with my phone to try and get a picture, but it squeezed under a fence and into someone’s backyard. Now raccoons aren’t exactly one of those A-list critters people go crazy about seeing (probably because we tend to see so many dead along the highway in certain parts of the country), but I get a charge out of seeing any wild animal I don’t normally see.
Of course this time of year, if we lived in the Rattlesnake in the NE corner of Missoula, an area Julia and I, and many other people, often hike, we’d have other concerns . . . as this article from last week’s Missoulian points out:
A big black bear has already broken into two garages in Missoula’s Rattlesnake neighborhood, according to Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel. A snowmobiler in the Ovando area spotted fresh griz tracks last Friday. And wildlife officers on the Flathead Indian Reservation saw a sow grizzly with a cub over the weekend.
Did anyone see the movie Shakespeare in Love from about ten years ago or so? I remember in that movie the theater experts claimed that in order for a play to be successful, it needed a small, funny dog in it. This moose story, from Hamilton, which is about an hour south of here, wins because it meets that criteria in the form of a “little schnauzer named Buttons.” From the article:
On a dead run, Zohner looked back over her shoulder to see the moose running fast in their direction now.
“It looked like it was chasing us,” she said. “I think the guy scared it. It was heading right back toward us. I yelled ‘It’s coming. Run as fast as you can!’ ”
Dragging Buttons down the street by its leash, the two reached their porch at almost the same time and scrambled to get inside. The screen door slammed shut. Buttons was still outside.
This is one of those articles that you can almost feel the fun the reporter, Perry Backus of the Ravalli Republic, had writing it; check it out. I read it aloud to Julia the other night, and we’ve been giggling ever since.
It could be because we have our own “chased by a moose” story. The summer before Julia moved up here she was visiting and we went camping near Lake Como, also in the Hamilton area. Behind the campsite area and down a slope was a marshy pond. Early in the morning Julia spied a moose below in the pond and summoned me. We were watching it from a distance of probably sixty or seventy yards when it decided it didn’t like being eyeballed and came charging up the hill after us. Luckily we were just car camping, so we bolted to the truck; the moose thundered up to the edge of our site, looked around a bit, then lumbered off in the other direction. It was exciting. Not counting cows, roosters and dogs, that’s the only time I can recall being chased by an animal. Oh, and this ornery horse my sister used to have, I guess.
Finally, the best wilderness link of the week hit my radar last Friday. It’s another photo essay from The Big Picture, which I’ve linked to before, and never fails to blow me away. This one is called Dog Sledding Season – Coming to a Close. And it is a must view!