each day of our lives here in the hills are lived with animals; wild animals slinking, creeping, roaming and flying through the woods around us; farm animals mingling, playing and protecting us. always a puppy underfoot. kittens climbing the tent as i try to sleep. nelly the newfoundland bounding around and barking at the people and animals that come to visit us. snakes lay in my path when i walk to the phone spot. lizards hide in the outhouse. woodpeckers headbang trees by the clothesline. a million bugs infiltrate every space. coyotes howl in the woods so close to where i sleep. we wait for skunks to cross the road on the drive home. deer jump and prance across the lawn. chickens roam freely, clucking and cawing. vultures and hawks soar above the morning fog. baby frogs spring from the tarps in the light of my headlamp.
and in the dark of night a hundred rustlings and grunts just outside the thin tent walls signal the progress of much bigger animals. more than once i've grabbed the gun and run from the sound to the cabin in the dark, surrendering to the fear of the unknown creature.
they march through my dreams; ambling bears, wild wolves, giant felines stalking in the trees. i wake either to howls in the dark with my heart beating like a frightened rabbit, or to chirps and warbles in the morning light, stretching catlike and happy in the knowledge that i'm an animal too.