I fully intended to write a musing for April, but I blinked my eyes and April was gone. That fast! I feel as though spring has stepped up her seasonal pace to warp speed. Is it just me? May has run away with me as well. If you ask me, such beautiful days should linger a bit longer.
I know you are asking yourself, “Who is that ‘coon?” I’ll get to that a bit later…
April found me wandering the forest nearly every day, whenever I could spare a half an hour. The month began with the forest floor looking deep brown and mysterious in its early spring dress. Slowly at first, and then with an explosion of growth, the ground turned from the softest green to shades of yellow, blue, white, and pink with a cascade of wildflowers. I liked the Virginia blue bells the best. They became tall, their multiple tips bending with the sweetest shade of sky blue flowers. In the front yard, I found a box turtle as ornate as an inlaid jewelry box. I’ve never lived with box turtles. Finding them out in the wild is like stumbling upon Faberge eggs. What beautiful, ancient creatures!
Water filled the creeks to singing and soon I began to hear the soft plop of frogs launching into the creek pools when I walked too close for their comfort. Songbirds returned to fill the trees with music that begins at dawn and ends when the tree frogs take up the evening chorus. Last fall when I walked these woods, I was nearly knee-deep in leaves. I was astonished to find that all that papery leaf matter is now compressed to about a quarter-inch beneath my feet, and that the soil is “eating” the fallen leaves at a stunning rate. No wonder these forests are so lush with greenery. The soil floor is a gigantic compost heap!
After spending all winter cocooned in my house—which is one good way to honor the energy of winter—I can’t bear to be indoors any longer. I linger in our new vegetable garden, watching the seeds sprout til late, late in the afternoon. Housecleaning? Cooking? Blogging? Paying bills? Sorry, but it’ll all have to wait for a patch of bad weather.
Then, the coons came. Three of them. Through Wildcare, our local wildlife rehabilitation organization, I am supposed to be caring for orphaned skunks this summer. So far, the mother skunks are keeping their babies close, and none of them have found their way to me. But Susan Davis, the “Raccoon Team Leader,” is inundated with orphans. “These three just came in last night,” Susan said as I stood with her in a garage lined with elaborate pens, carriers, and crates all full of raccoon kits of all ages and sizes. “Someone trapped the mother and three kits out of an attic and dumped the whole family by a road,” she went on. Two days later, she told me, the mother was killed. Two days after that, someone grabbed up the three frantic, starving, traumatized babies and got them to Wildcare.
These three would take extra time, which I had and Susan didn’t. That night, Earnest, Faith, and Frank came home with me. My idyllic days in the garden ended. Earnest was so distressed all he could think to do was scream. Faith was suffering from severe diarrhea and would not, could not, eat. Her eyes were slightly sunken, and I thought I might lose her. Frank was silent and afraid, curled in a ball at the back of the carrying cage. When I reached for him, he bluff-charged my hand and gave me a toothless nip.
It has been thirty years since I was active in wildlife rehabilitation. I had long-forgotten the routine, the drill, the once automatic organizing of feeding, cleaning, medicating, weighing, mothering. The three frightened faces looking out at me from the carrier were facing new territory. Who would they be with no mother? How would they be? What had so much stress in so short a life done to them? How quickly could I re-learn all I needed to know to keep them safe and alive?
Since my move last summer to Indiana, my life has been a series of enormous changes, one after the other—some good, some painful, some sobering, all causing me to stretch myself into new mental, physical, and emotional territory. I am learning much. So much, it is sometimes exhausting. Who am I in my fifties? What am I? What must I put away, and what must I pick up as I move forward into my new life here? And looking out at the larger picture, will the country I love find a new way to be in these changing, scary times? Perhaps all of us on Earth have been tossed out of a car onto the side of a road to make a new way for ourselves. It certainly feels that way.
I have in my care now three infant teachers with small black masks and tender, inquisitive hands. This spring, the four of us will learn together how move forward in the face of great fear, great confusion, and great promise. I’ll be sharing their wisdom with you along the way.