Animals happen, in my life.
Several years ago, my grandmother died. My family and I gathered around her on the bed, I holding her hand. In one of those peculiar cases, her heart had stopped, but her body was still breathing. We waited, grief suspended, for that final exhalation.
I looked up and out the window onto nature, as I often do. In that moment, a tiny red squirrel perched on a boulder, right outside. I drew the family’s attention to it because red squirrels just don’t live in that area, they are endemic further north. We watched the little critter and mused that my grandmother was similar to them: small, feisty, argumentative, active. When the squirrel hopped off the rock, I looked down and my Grammy had stopped breathing. She was gone.
More and more now, it’s not so much that I notice the animals, but that they notice me.
Recently, I was reading a novel with a recurring presence of moths. Specifically, Luna Moths- the giant, soft-green marvels of the summer night. I love those moths, and have rarely seen them except at the end of their season, when they are literally falling apart in their last hurrah. After some thought, though, I remembered seeing one, in that state, a couple of summers ago. I thought about how nice it would be to see one again.
One morning, days later, I was up at 2am, eating breakfast before work, reading next to the window, when something caught my eye. A great big soft-green something.
A Luna had seen the light in the window and been attracted to it. Magical.
Last week, I was taking a walk, as I always do, and took the long circuit through my woods, because- well, it was Sunday, and I need to take longer walks when I'm not going to be walking around a goat farm all day. I heard a barred owl, fairly close-by, and then watched it fly to a tree where it could peer down at me and the dogs. It sat there looking at us, and I looked at it. I moved further down my path and was able to get a better look, although it was of its back. It watched me with its head on a swivel.
Barred owls have these wild black eyes. I felt measured, meeting its gaze. Honored.
So I told it, "thanks, Dude. Thank you."
Later that morning, I was sitting out back, staring into the woods, and realized that a red squirrel was chattering away. And that I was looking straight at it. It just kept talking. I’m in a place, now, where I see them all the time, they aren’t as special to me as they used to be.
But this time, my mind drifted, and I remembered when my grandmother was dying.
I have always thought of red squirrel chatter as scolding, but this guy out behind my house was just hanging out, gossiping away. Suddenly I remembered my Grammy, vividly. A visit? Maybe.