Midway through my morning walk today, I surprised a raccoon. He was in the act of climbing a fence and froze when he spotted me. We were just a few feet apart, staring each other down. Sensing a perfect photo opportunity, I grabbed my phone, fumbling for the camera in the hopes of capturing the moment for posterity.
Unfortunately, the above photo is not mine. I’d love to take credit, but I wasn’t quick enough on the draw. Instead, I ended up with this shot.
Kinda pales in comparison, but that’s the fleeting nature of existence, right? Fortunately, getting up at 4:30 every morning for a three-mile walk around the neighborhood presents plenty of opportunities for wildlife encounters. So long as those encounters do not involve bears, I’m okay. We see rabbits every day. Earlier this week, there was a deer. I hear there are coyotes around. Walk long enough, and you’re bound to be rewarded.
Raccoons, though. When I was eight years old and living in Ohio, my family took up camping. In the evenings when the sun went down and we gathered around the campfire, raccoons would show up as if on cue, passing through our campsite. I quickly developed a fascination for the animals, and when I picked up a copy of Rascal, Sterling North’s memoir about growing up in Wisconsin and the raccoon he adopted as a pet, I decided that I, too, should have a pet raccoon. Oddly enough my parents did not agree, but gave me a stuffed animal, which I named Bandit, for Christmas instead. Which is probably just as well; North eventually had to release Rascal into the woods as the animal grew older and became more ornery. Still, every time I see a raccoon, even to this day – (and today, on this day) – I am transported back to my own childhood and can instantly recall the wonder and innocence of my halcyon youth and the belief that all things are possible.
My friends and coworkers think Tara and I are crazy to get up so early every day for those walks. I say they keep us young, in more ways than one.