SHARING WINTER VIEWING WITH THE WILD
For years my winter world has been in the house cave. Wake me when its spring. With my heart captured by the star gods, I must relinquish the safety of my winter slumber and venture out into the clear, crisp winter bite your nose, cold. For the first time in fifteen years I have bought myself some official floor stomping winter boots. I have been forced to buy men's boots because for some unknown reason the manufactures feel women arenít active and therefore make our boots light and skimpy. The boots come thick, tall, wide and burly, right out of some creature feature. Since the top of the boot meets the middle of my calf, I walk more like an abominable snowman. Dogs tilt their heads in wonder. I down one layer, then second, and follow with noisy, swishing ski pants. Itís a good thing I donít have to sneak up on anyone. The coat is next, followed by a stocking hat that swallows my face, and thick mittens that transform into gloves. Behold, its balloon woman. I go from being Barney Fife to Incredible Hulk.
By the time I down the appropriate attire, set up my telescope, set up reference book, notebook and flashlight I am to tired to look. Well, not really. The anticipation for a new adventure over rides any fatigue. As the search progresses I find the greatest challenge is in using my gloves to turn the pages in my reference book and trying to write well enough so I can decipher it later.
I live out in the country with the wildlife. I treasure my moments when the animals allow me the privilege to see them. This one night I had gone through the ritual of setting up and was having a wonderful time discovering new stars. Rustling in the trees is not uncommon here, part of being in the wild. But being in the blackness of night brings in a joining of fear and my imagination. I donít like to bite into fear. When the noises came from the crab apple tree about twenty feet away, between me and the house, I knew who it was. This year we have a family of seven raccoons, two Moms and five kits, that raid my trees at night. I delight in their presence. I decided that if the noises stayed in the tree, I would not allow the fear to bother me. Every once and a while the growling between them would cause a little twinge of fear. I continued to staying focus on my star gazing.
Concentration can be intense when trying to find the elusive Messier objects. I had placed my telescope at the bottom of our "U" driveway. Suddenly their was a noise at the opening of the "U". The noise was moving my way. Fear presented itself full face, grabbed me and claimed victory. I wanted to run to the house but what of the raccoons, where are they now? My bulky boots made it impossible to run. I was halted as quickly as I started. Words like bear and eat you up filled my mind. But alas it was Mama deer and the two kids coming for apples and bird seed. They turned and ran as well. Mom probably told the fawns, that the noise was the human that comes out at night and stares into a round cylinder. Viewing went on for a little longer, but I was never the same. The noises from the woods continued to have a field day with my imagination. There had been reports of bears and mountain lions in the area as well.
Since this event the neighbor dog has discovered my nightly joy and comes for visits when I am out. I call her my knight in shining armor. She keeps the noises at bay. All to often though, the dog comes late at night and calls me out by doing a drive-by barking. I think she has a touch of greyhound in her because sheís gone before I can go outside and yell at her.
If you ever see a round dark glob rustling in the night, it may be just me having a peek at the tall sky. Such is the passion of winter viewing.