August 21, 2013
Ruminations: The Raccoon and the Burglar


Something is howling or wailing in almost rhythmic despair.  I saw a coyote not far from here once.  Or maybe it’s the horses across the way, or an owl.  Funny how a distant sound under layers and layers of crickets and cicadas can be virtually anything at all.

It is darker in the country, where the city lights don’t make their orbit when the sun sets.  Darker and quieter.  During the day, the country is gentle and soothing and fresh and secure.  At night, it is a blank slate for my wildest imagination.  Something moves a rock outside my window, and it’s probably a raccoon or an opossum or a skunk, but I think it is a burglar in a black outfit with a scarf tied around his mouth.  At least, in my irrationality, I romanticize the burglar.

When I came to stay here four months ago, it wasn’t a bad option, though not my first choice either.  I’ve always gravitated towards cities, and felt most at home in New York City for the better part of 10 years.  Yet, something was calling me to sit quietly this summer.  To let the sun’s vitamins into my skin, watch the stars and moon come out at night, and listen.  To fall into rhythm with something vast.  I wasn’t happy when I came here.  I can’t honestly describe my disposition as entirely happy now.  But tonight I sat and watched the sunset turn to dusk and looked up at towering pines and thought, “I needed this.”

If I get really quiet and let myself open up to the secret whisperings of my mind, it becomes annoyingly obvious that I put a burglar in where there is only a raccoon.  I find this simultaneously hilarious and humiliating.  And while I love hilarity, humiliation and I are not good friends, so I will avoid him to the best of my ability.  Work is a useful avoidance tactic.  Keeping busy, creative pursuits, productivity, self-improvement, socializing, social media, cooking, baking, doing anything at all to keep myself occupied so that when I put my head on the pillow, loss of consciousness is nearly immediate. 


During the day, the sun is shining, I can drink in the summer air.  I can proudly boast that I know why I came to spend time here.  But the real reason is only unveiled in the darkness, in that but momentary glimpse of witnessing my mind’s folly before it gets entirely carried away and senseless fears abound in one story after another until all is lost in a muddied web like a highway cloverleaf seen from above through a brown fog.

In that moment that the rock moves outside my window, if I could just tell myself, “It’s a raccoon,” and believe it!  If I had control of the thoughts from their very inception, I could nip them in the bud.  But then a crunch outside by feet that sound too large to be anything but human, or so I think, and I can see as plain as anything, my fears, as they run away with themselves.  I find a small bit of pride in the fact that I could, at least, perceive them.

Morning comes and I laugh at how I jumped up to lock the window and wrapped myself tightly in the blanket for “protection.”  It’s light out now, and I can feel the clarity that the night brought.  I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of nonsensical things, things that aren’t even there, things that my mind makes up and romanticizes into things worth fearing.

Everything seems small within the acres and acres of grass and woods and hills.  The countryside has compassion for my fear.  Fear is valid and it’s part of life.  It’s dark and it’s sneaky and I couldn’t see it with all the bright city lights, and I’m not sure we can transmute things we can’t perceive.

And, while alchemy is a worthy albeit lofty goal, my heart is quiet in its gratitude for what is already achieved: self-acceptance.

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