Good Morning. The sun has spoken, stepping up to claim the day. I’m grateful for a brand new one. Yesterday, the yearling moose calves paid another visit, delivering along with them another sleepless night.
They appeared without their mama moose. Crisscrossing the highway like a game of Frogger. My husband drove out in search of mama moose, and would’ve kept going, but for our getting our literal signals crossed. So instead, we watched them go northward across the state highway, then return to our side of it on the south. The valley with its blue grama and western wheatgrasses is appealing to my alcine friends after a barren winter of aspen bark and willow branches.
As the sun sank over the western ridge, silhouettes of lodgepole and ponderosa pine appeared on the horizon. I watched the yearlings in a vain and futile effort to oversee safe passage for them, should they decide to cross the state highway bordering our valley, at an inopportune moment. I have this idea that I can save them by summoning attention of passing motorists of their presence.
I’ve had that idea ever since time began in reality for me. And my settled adult life has found my home on a state highway.
Sometimes, I think the Universe has a sense of humor.
I watched the yearling calves as they settled here into the valley. Dusk arrived without incident, trauma or excitement. As the hummingbirds took their last sip of nectar at the feeders, young moose bodies settled into their bedtime accommodations next to us on the south side of the state highway, here in our valley.
I breathed a sigh of relief for the calves, for they themselves had found the place where they could snooze under Leo’s magical light.
All the while, I kept scanning the horizon for movement of a dark, more foreboding body. Mama moose are ranked among the most dangerous animals where human encounters are concerned.
I couldn’t sit still and simply wait for a possible animal-vehicle collision, so I walked over to my original cabin, the first shelter I lived in back in 1992. A mere two hundred square feet, it was home to my former and I and our two Chicago rescue dogs. It has been reclaimed by nature now, a semblance of what once was – plywood floors and two simple windows made of plexiglass and two-by-fours and a wood stove that stood in testament to earlier days when we all warmed ourselves by its hearthside efforts.
There I used to stand in front of the old stove, stirring a pot of Rice-a-Roni and black beans, warming wash water for dirty dishes thereafter. Folsom and George were lying in wait, while my former chopped wood to fuel the fire for the bitter January evening ahead. In the milky, time-laden distance lay the ice frozen in the dogs’ water bowl, a tribute to our dedication to warmth of bedding over the hearty bravery of stoking a fire at three a.m.
The plexiglass windows are now clouded over with the passage of time; they stand in testament to other days when they barred entry of bears on a September night. The wood stove has long been occupied by a nesting family of field mice, the packrats have come and gone like diners at a local restaurant. The original miner’s cabin has stood unoccupied, unloved and unattended for over two decades since the barn took its place. And yet, whispers of a past so distant in my rear view mirror beckon me back to my original pioneering days on occasion, if only to recall other times not so intrusive.
Cars and lights and sounds from too much human activity broke my reminiscing with a brashness akin to a chanting Trump-supporter at a rally. A wave of sadness swept over me with a deep longing for the quiet simplicity of gentler times. Here was my moment of turning from the past into the present, upon me with a suddenness that stunned the fragility of the moment.
I wept for the perils at the edge of existence for mama moose and her yearlings, and for the threats all wild creatures feel in trying to move about our constructed world. I wept for all the happy endings that will never be, for the youth of life now gone, for opportunities never to occur. I wept for humanity in the throes of irreconcilable, unfathomable, traumatic life change, and for the whole of existence at odds with the progress that simply feels like evolution, frustrated.
I wept for a long while. It wasn’t because our well pump had just blew out, leaving me without running water for the week and propelling me backwards to the days I lived without. I did so because I believe that the passage of time is something worth weeping over.
Somehow, the emancipation of twin moose calves – beings only one year into their wild little lives — feels a harshness in a brutal time for which my heart wasn’t ready. I felt their vulnerability with each wild breath they took.
I closed the cabin door, and walked quietly back to the safety of the front porch. From there, I watched in quiet stillness their silhouettes move about the hillside, grazing. On occasion, one picked up his bulbous, beautiful head and pricked giant ears in my direction. I imagined he was assessing threat levels. But then, he resumed his grazing, reaching sufficient contentment enough to drop to his knees for a closer crop.
All the while, mama was, quite simply, a no-show.
The next morning, I checked in with my local Town Marshall to ask if he’d learned of any moose deaths on nearby highways.
Happily, he has not.
This way to green pastures, she said, before trotting off to bring new life to this mosaic existence.
I feel like a fireman who has just found a baby in a basket left outside the station.
Namaste, and thank you for tuning in.