There are the early mornings with their golden morning light, dewy grasses, crisp clean air and lively chirping birds. On our walks we can hear the cows mooing and a robust rooster crowing from a farm down the road. We often get to see and hear the hawk pair that live at the edge of the trail and lately we have been sighting a family of grouse that are often in the brush near the cabin.
The afternoons are usually warmer and quiet, unless it is a hot summer day and then there are the boat noises on the lake. Otherwise it’s just peaceful with the buzzing of insects, the songs of various birds and the sounds of whatever task I am working on (hammer, saw, paintbrush, lawn mower, shovel in dirt, humming, Lucy barking at squirrels…)
Out here though, it is the nights that are the most interesting. I often forget about the many nocturnal animals that do all of their hunting, eating, grazing and exploring under the cover of darkness. I like to read out on the deck as the sun is going down. At a certain point when it becomes too dark to read, the birds will stop their chirping. It is not quiet for long, however… far from it. This is the magical time when, in the summers, the bats come out from their daytime sleep and fill the night with the flapping of tiny leathery wings. There are many of them and they fly so close to you it is a wonder that they never seem to touch or land. This month, hundreds of ducks and geese can be heard having a conference on the shores of the lake. Sometimes their discourse carries on far into the night. During the day they fly overhead with hundreds of the water birds forming one gigantic “V” in the sky…
Then there are the coyotes with their nightly high-pitched barks and wailing. I used to think that their howls were eerie and once, when they were howling very close by (sending chills up and down my spine), I went outside and whistled loudly and they stopped at once. It was suddenly so quiet that I immediately felt sad for having stopped them. I never did it again, instead I now let them howl to their hearts content and always laugh when the neighborhood dogs join in one by one (Lucy included).
Last spring it was the foxes. During their mating season I began sighting grey and red and cross foxes nearby and finding their scat around the property. Then I began hearing them at night, crying out with their own unique yips and barks and howls. At first I thought it was so beautiful… until they chose to hang around the very back of the property, so close that I couldn’t sleep through the racket. Finally, on the third night (in a row) at around 3 am I went outside, armed with a few pots and pans, and grumpily trudged out to the back woods. By the light of a full moon, I banged and clashed the pots together and firmly requested that the fox go away and howl somewhere else. It worked but only for half an hour or so! Then they were back, seemingly even closer to my bedroom window this time! I finally gave up and took to sleeping with a pillow over my head until the last fox had found a mate.
It is in the night, not the day, that I often encounter animals… coyotes, fox, huge (and tiny) owls, a confident black dog strutting down the highway with shining black eyes… and a large stray cat who comes nightly to woo (and rub up against) my catnip plant in the herb garden (which will be transplanted to a different spot next spring)!
Last night, as Lucy and I returned home from a city visit, she disappeared around the side of the cabin. The next thing I knew she had raced up onto the deck and was barking (her ‘intruder’ bark) at something from above. As I let her into the house, I noticed a powerful musky smell on her. She must have been sprayed by some nocturnal animal. I thought perhaps it was a skunk just warning her not to come any closer but perhaps it was some other animal…? Maybe the cat…? She did not get a full-fledged S-P-R-A-Y (yikes!!!!!!) but it was still strong enough that her eyes were watery and itchy (she kept rubbing her face into her blanket) and I had to sleep with my nose buried under my own blanket until the morning.
Yes, the days are quiet and peaceful out here but the nights… the nights are so lively! With no traffic noise to compete with the wildlife or street lights preventing the moonlight from touching our faces, it truly is a magical life.