11.17.2006,12:56 PM
Kingdom of the Possums - Part 5
Night in the Kingdom

The evening was quiet and peaceful. There was no blazing sunset or full moon, but the gentle slap of lake water added a rhythmic cadence of sound to supplement the visual banquet before me. It is times and places such as this that the inside creeps out allowing for expanded introspection and contemplation. Then, distractions from the immediate environment are welcomed ones. I found myself smiling a few times at the flow of thoughts parading in my head.

Robert Persig wrote “The only Zen you find at the top of the mountain is that which you take with you.” When I go on rideabouts, I always take mine with me. It nurtures the peace inside. Perhaps that’s one reason I’m a bum on two wheels.

As darkness crept in I made my way back up the ledges to my camp spot and made myself a mug of hot cocoa. The aroma of that dark and luscious liquid was tantalizing there in the middle of the fall foliage and lake wonderland. Soma for the senses.

Something was amiss….where was Bernard? I looked on top and under the table and didn’t see the familiar blue fuzzy body. I wonder where he went to. I steered to the tent to retrieve my little flashlight, opened the tent flap and who should I see crashed out on my pillow but that blue dynamo Bernard.

I left him there and went back to the table to read a bit before the light faded completely. As typical of my bedtime reading I read a page or two and found myself yawning and ready to fade into that semi-conscious world of pre-REM. (For once I’d like to be awake and feel that so-called rapid eyeball movement. Do they move in one direction, circle around their orbs, jump and shout?).

After securing loose items the tent had another occupant, myself, and I pulled off the UnderArmors to don T-shirt and cotton leggings before crawling into the two sleeping bags: a mummy bag (rated for 40o F) and a Big Agnes rectangular bag (rated to 50° F) with insulated pad. I was still unsure of the weather and my one night of freezing rain, gusting winds and snow in the mountains of Colorado, and becoming an icicle, prompt me to now dress for cold sleep. As Tom Lehrer sang in The Boy Scout’s Marching Song: “Be Prepared. You don’t know what might come along.”

I read by the light of the headlamp on my forehead for another page, a new unit of measured time, and drifted off to a comfortable sleep. I woke three times in the night, once to the sound of the aluminum fry pan crashing down to the ground. I shrugged out from the confines of my cacoon, slipped on sandals and met face to eyes with a big raccoon. He glared at me as if he dared me to come closer. So I did. I used my usual animal scare tactic of loudly growling and raising my arms high over my head, staring at him wide eyed. It works well on smallish animals but I wouldn’t try it with a bear.

The plump brown body with masked eyes jumped and scuttled off into the trees twittering loudly and I picked up the pan to hang it by the handle on a nail in the wooden beam overhead. Now awake, I retrieved the last protein bar from the ice pack and munched it while sitting at the picnic table in the dark.

I listened to coyotes in the distance, their familiar yapping music to my ears and eliciting a smile, reminiscing of the days on the sheep ranch in Oregon when such music woke me from a sound sleep. Training myself to wake instantly from a dead sleep when the coyotes giggled and yipped, I would open a window over my bed to listen and gauge their location and activities. If they came too close to the pastures below, I’d yell out the window which often was enough to warn them away. If not, I would retrieve the gun kept next to my bed, slip on sweats and slide feet into boots to go outside to yell again, louder, and sometimes fire a shot or two.

All those ten years of raising sheep amidst overpopulated coyotes and never once had a coyote attacked the flock. The neighbors’ dogs were more a problem than the coyotes and cougars together. Again, another surprise because despite my meticulous construction of coyote-proof fencing, it was not cougar proof. But they are more shy of human contact than the coyotes and the surplus of rabbit and deer kept their hunting easy and bellies full. And the coyotes around the park and lake were plentiful judging by the many deposits of coyote scat I found while walkabout the lake and woods.

I turned in again and barely broke the surface of wakefulness twice in the night as a shower or two dropped a gentle rain on the tent. The patter of the raindrops lulled me instantly back into the deep lake of slumber.

To be continued......


posted by Macrobe
Permalink ¤