Friday, October 16, 2009


Now that I am preparing to leave The Mountain again and we have been socked in for days, I ponder things I will miss when we have said goodbye to the summer retreat. A few days ago, I thought that I’d be happy to leave and wouldn’t be having nostalgia for anything up here. It was the day we discovered a critter in our garage. I had gone out to put garbage in the containers standing in a corner of the garage and noticed a sack of mulch with a hole in its side, the mulch spilling out untidily on the garage floor. I called to my friend, Vickie, and she came out to view the destruction. She picked up the sack, not so gingerly, and a black nose and two eyes stared up at her. It was a skunk, and how we were saved from a colossal spray, I don’t know. Sister Skunk emitted a faint odor, and we raised the garage doors, by hand, in record time. Surely, we thought, she’ll scamper back to her nest somewhere far from our premises.

Later that evening, as I was talking with a friend on the telephone, I heard a sound as if a body was being thrown against the garage wall. The friend could hear it via the telephone. I knew what it was – not a robber, but a marauder with a strong scent – the skunk! She was trying to get out. However, later we peered into a corner where approximately eight pieces of luggage were stored, and there she was, curled up in a space between the luggage and the platform on which it stood. Again, we opened the doors, but at bedtime when I peeked out, those eyes were still peering at me from the corner. I went to sleep on the thought that the Department of Wildlife would have to be called the following morning. We’re accustomed to seeing much wildlife here on The Mountain, but I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my sojourn here with a skunk in residence. Unlike my favorite children’s artist, Beatrix Potter, I find nothing enchanting about Sister Skunk.

Morning came, and Sister Skunk had disappeared into the inevitable mists that enshroud Sewanee this time of year. We have since begun lifting the garage doors each time we go out in the car, but these doors are not electronically controlled, and she has caused us to have extra hassles with heavy doors. I have written several snippets about the visit of the skunk, which will appear in “Old Ridges,” a book that Border Press will publish after I return to New Iberia, Louisiana. And, by the way, “Rising Water” is at the printers and has been returned twice because of glitches with the cover, but it will be available within two weeks and can be ordered from at that time. Here’s the skunk poem:


strange weather comes to pass,
a skunk pays a visit to the garage,
snuggles into a sack of mulch,
mute in a bag, a prowler
who has come hunting mice
in a corner of a closed nightclub,
not knowing about my bad dreams
and how, in the night,
I am often awake,
concerned about the furies in my soul,
afraid of nocturnal creatures like her
who could take me to the Other Side.

This striped adventurer, pursuing rats,
or just a place to hide from the rain,
formed a nest in the warm sack,
a place to hold better dreams than mine,
while a steady rain filled all the holes
she had dug in the undulating lawn.

Unexpectedly she falls asleep on watch,
at dawn, awakening to hands shaking the bag,
neither of us breaking the silence,
just two creatures unannounced,
without unfurling tails,
fleeing from each other’s strange scent.
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