When I moved to glassland I learned many astonishing things about glass, life on a corporate cubicle farm and being at one with Nature.
Nature, apparently, also learned to be at one with me, at least when it came to raccoons. More specifically, Nature went out of her way to explain that the cute, cuddly little bandits of my favorite animated fantasies were just that: Fantasies.
Nature and I have had an uneasy relationship ever since my last camping trip. I was 15, we were ‘way into the Sierra backwoods at church camp and our counselor had never so much as zipped a tent flap. Naturally, she had us make camp atop a large nest of giant black ants.
I was exhausted that first night, so I snuggled deep into my down-filled sleeping coccoon under the stars. Around 1AM my ear itched, so I sleepily inserted a finger to scratch.
ZZZZZZAP! The ant in my ear bit so hard she drew blood. I howled and tried to scramble upright, disturbing hundreds of ants that had quietly filled my sleeping bag. They attacked.
I literally ripped my way out of that bag, yelling my head off and swiping at the hordes of biting, stinging swarms that covered my body.
I ran for the river, screaming, waking up not only the camp but also the ranger’s station over the rise. Supposing that a camper had been attacked by a bear, they grabbed flashlights and rifles, and came prepared to fight.
When the troops–a dozen or so jeeps and station wagons–finally found me, I was waist-deep in the river, screaming and slapping at ants.
The bright lights startled me into silence, and at about that moment I realized that I was naked in front of 50-plus armed warriors (I was going through a rebellious no-pajamas phase), and also that I was freezing to death. The camp leader gave me a coat, permission to sleep in the supply tent, and a giant can of bug spray.
Since then I’ve had exactly zero urge to experience the wilderness.
Wilderness, however, likes to experience me. When I rented a house in glassland, it made itself right at home. I made the mistake of feeding the feral cats in the neighborhood…which brought the raccoons.
About a month after we’d moved in, my cat Rajah started “come inside and fight like a cat” war cries in the wee hours, so I knew there was something outside. Things came to a head around 4AM one morning, when I had an early flight to catch one morning. I was in the shower and heard Rajah shrieking.
I grabbed a towel and dashed to the back door, where Rajah was lunging at the glass. As I dripped across the floor, I saw a shadow moving outside, across the deck.
It was too ungainly for a dog, too big for a cat. It looked like a large bear cub…I flicked on the deck lights and there was the biggest raccoon I’d ever seen.
He was at least thigh-high, with paws not much smaller than my own hands. His head was buried in the cat food bowl.
He casually glanced at me, and went back to eating. A fellow this big probably also wouldn’t mind chowing down on the cats, I thought, so best to scare him off.
I tapped on the glass door: “Shooo, fella! Shooo!”
He didn’t even look up, so I rapped a bit harder.
“Hey!!!! You, there!! Scram!!!!!”
He ignored me. Faintly insulted, this time I really BANGED on the glass.
“YO! Einstein!!! Go HOME!!!!!!!!!”
Nothing. So I opened the door, put a bare foot outside and stomped it on the deck.
“You think I’m talking to MYSELF?” I shouted, “GET OUT OF HERE! SHOO!!!”
The raccoon looked over and–I swear–rolled his eyes. Then he clambered up on my brand new teak lounge chair and settled in, watching me.
That did it. My towel slid off, but I was so mad I didn’t care. I grabbed the broom by the door and stomped out on the deck.
“GET THE HELL OFF MY DECK!!” I yelled, in my best basso profundo, and raised the broom as if to wallop the furry interloper. I wasn’t going to really hit him, just remind him that he was more afraid of me than I of him.
So the raccoon yawns. And I notice that, really, for a raccoon, he wasn’t all that cute.
And if there was something he was afraid of, it sure as heck wasn’t me. Also that his yawn revealed very large, sharp-looking yellow fangs.
The raccoon looked at me, and slowly began to rise. He didn’t look all that friendly.
A headline played in the back of my mind: “NAKED WOMAN FOUND SAVAGED BY IRRITATED RACCOON”
“Enjoy your breakfast,” I mumbled, and beat a hasty retreat.
The next time I encounter wilderness, it’s gonna be with some clothes on.