363: Poplar Leaves (A Raccoon)

                A few days ago, outside my brother’s house in Washington, I sat a while with a raccoon. At first the raccoon surprised me. I went out for a soccer ball my niece had kicked by the fence, and looked up to see something, quick and big, coming down along a branch. It went from the branch to the trunk, and then climbed up. Smooth movements. Clever hands. A rump without a tail, which made me wonder a minute, which made me guess. Then from twenty feet up it paused and stared at me. Calm eyes. Ready for a long wait.
                I wanted to sit with the raccoon, but I didn’t want to scare it, and I thought standing there and staring might make it uncomfortable. So I came inside. Then a story came to me from one of my friends, something about a famous author (I don’t remember who) who said he didn’t think humans could have any real enduring connection with cats. Telling the story, my friend commented, “I know he lived with a cat, but I listen to him, and I wonder if he ever really just spent time with the cat.” My friend has spent a lot of time with their own cat, Simon. They’ve noticed a lot of Simon’s habits. They know a lot of the movements that mean back off, or more gently, some space, please. A different friend once asked me, “What animals that are not pets have you really sat with?”
                So I went back outside. I stood on the far side of the yard. The raccoon watched me. I watched them a little, but tried not to lock my eyes on them. I’ve heard sustained eye contact can often be read as a threat (is that true of raccoons?). I noticed the clouds, high and soft. I wondered what kind of tree the raccoon was in, and what the little fruits were they had been eating. I wondered where they slept. I noticed the breathing of the wind through the poplar leaves. I felt the grass. At a certain point I found myself scratching my cheek, and looked over to see the raccoon, grooming their side. 
                There’s something in this moment that highlights for me how much I don’t know. There’s also a spaciousness, a peace. There are two eyes looking out through the leaves at my two eyes. I’m going to spend more time in the yard in case this raccoon stops by again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s