gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

it's a jungle out there.

“A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than all the metaphysics of books.” Walt Whitman.

driving from dharmsala and mcleod ganj back to my home was a five-hour jaunt across the middle ranges of the himalayan mountains. i had to wind my way east along a lonely stretch of road through the kangra valley to mandi and then north again by the pundoh pass in to the kullu valley, called the valley of the gods. i had a very small van and it was a dark night, well after midnight, when i turned a corner near palampur and caught sight of a leopard in the headlights.
by the time i stopped, the majestic creature had not moved an inch. really, we were face-to-face with only a windshield between us. large, long, muscular, with a tail almost as long again, we stared at each other. a moment later, it lept off to one side of the road, back to the other side, turned and bounded back again and off into the jungle. i continued to sit there for a while, appreciating what i'd just witnessed.

nearly thirty years on, i still remember that mystical night. i can still clearly see in my mind's eye the big white-ish cat with brown in the middle of the black spots, its steely gaze, its powerful jumps. i still feel blessed to have witnessed it. that was one of those visions i know will always stay with me, like the marauding elephants at the 1976 kumbh mela, like the mountain lion with her cubs outside the village of mahal, or  very much like the one i had just last night. i saw a racoon!

you have to understand that, since moving out of the village to right beside the gatineau park, i haven't seen so much as a gerbil. only dogs. this area's teeming with dogs. we've got beagles, border collies, scottish terriers, lots of mongrols, labs and huskies of course. what we don't have are deer, bear, even skunk or, until last night, racoons. for all that, you gotta cross the highway and trot off into the park, or go into the jungles of wakefield. just not here.

i awoke around 2:30 and shuffled in to the bathroom to do what aging guys all over the world have to do in the middle of the nights. as i sleepily leaned against the wall, i kept hearing a whimpering sound other than my own. i could tell the difference. so i looked out the window and, believe it or not, i really couldn't believe it. there was a racoon. then i saw another and another. there was a whole herd, or gaggle, or flock of 'em, big and small. i guess it was a family.

i followed them from window to window with a growing realization that that vision was as impressive to me last night as the leopard, elephants or those lions of so many years before. after all, isn't life life? why shouldn't i feel as fortunate to see racoons? why shouldn't we feel as fortunate to see each other, every time?

“Ten long trips around the sun since I last saw your lovely face, but only joy and thankfulness that on a tiny world in the vastness, for a couple of moments in the immensity of time, we were one.” Ann Druyan.

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