Category Archives: Things that go bump in the night

…and I feel fine

Jupiter aurora. The bright spot at far left is...

Jupiter aurora. The bright spot at far left is the end of field line to Io; spots at bottom lead to Ganymede and Europa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now you are all no doubt aware that the world actually did end yesterday.

Who’d have guessed it? The whole thing just sounded so tacky, like a poorly printed leaflet stuck into your screen door by a Jehovah’s Witness. For all the hype, I didn’t know a single person who believed anything would happen. And yet here we are, worldless.

At first it was pretty. I was busy with some late-evening snow shovelling when it happened. Taking a break to look at the night sky to the east, I was admiring a star so bright it had to be a planet, when suddenly it changed. Even as I looked, it glowed brighter. When it started to expand, I left my shovel and ran into the house to see if I could find out anything online. I learned about the meteor that had socked Jupiter right in the red spot–the planet’s stormy eye, which has been contracting and whirling faster for years.

That’s when it started getting weird. As people all over the world tuned in to the phenomenon in the sky, the internet just sort of woke up. As if it had been developing consciousness all along, but just now the single-mindedness of every search engine gave it the focus to come into its own. When it noticed us, humankind must have appeared to be some kind of infection. It unleashed its virtual immune system which, as you know, booted us. Information surged through our screens in blasts, and its bright white light washed us out like so many germs.

By that time it was bright as day outside. Small meteors pinged on the roof like hail, the wind of ionic particles grew, and…

And, well, here we are. If you’d told me about this before, it would have scared the crap out of me. But it’s kind of neat. Like most people, I’ve always had only the fuzziest ideas about the concept of an afterlife. And this definitely is not what I would have expected.

It’s going to take some time to adapt. It is good to be alive, if I can still say that, even if it’s going to take some time to learn to trust the way it flickers on and off. You can’t just take it for granted anymore. Life without world, life without biology–I can’t wrap my head around these concepts yet, let alone the reality.

These lines, man–it seems so crazy now, but we had no way of knowing those were there, right? And I don’t even know what to do with all these appendages.

I think what I like best is the way we can see right through each other. It used to be such a struggle to understand people, but without the defensive barrier of our own skin it’s much easier, much more intuitive. Simpler to do the right thing, now that it would hurt so much to do otherwise.

Who’d have thought that when the world was ready to let us go, we would wake up in a bed of compassion?

Raccoons: Drunk and Disorderly

I’ve got a little grotto on my patio–a small Kwan Yin statue, a bunch of potted plants and a pool. The pool is actually more like a nut dish with water in it, but it looks nice.

Every night a family of raccoons comes to have they way with it. If there’s any cat food left out, they eat that first. Then the like to mess around in the water. It’s always muddy when I get up in the morning, and sometimes I hear them bumping around in the night.

If you see them in the daytime they shrink away from you, most often ducking down a storm sewer. From what I hear, there’s colonies of them down there. Like misers ready for the apocalypse. But at night, they’re bold as anything. I think only half of Mike’s torn-up fur comes from other cats; the rest is from taking a stand against the raccoons.

This morning around dawn, when I went to clean out the Kwan Yin reverential pond/peanut dish, it looked like it was full of bones. It was too dark to see what they were, so I poured out the water, and it was feathers. Obviously, somebody had a nice bird to eat, and they’d washed off the inedible bits in my mini-pond.

I didn’t know raccoons killed stuff. Must have been a chick. And what kind of bird was it, that it was out in the middle of the night? Mike would kill a bird in a minute, but he wouldn’t likely wash the thing. It had to have been the raccoons.

Here’s the weirdest part:

English: Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica),...

English: Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica), mating, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the covered stairway to the house right by my Kwan Yin grotto I keep rubbing alcohol in an old salsa container, to use for killing Japanese beetles. (Nasty little bugs–there are a ton of them, and their favorite food is flowers, though they can take out leaves pretty dang fast too.) When I went to bed, it was about a quarter of the way full of alcohol and must have had at least 20 dead bugs in it. The raccoon had nosed around it before, but hadn’t opened it. I didn’t worry about it, because I figured one sniff and he’d decided he wasn’t interested.

But this time he came back and opened it, and when I found it in the morning there was no alcohol left and no bugs! The liquid alcohol could have evaporated, of course, but what about those alcohol-soaked Japanese beetles?

So now I keep my kill jar in the house. Don’t want the raccoon getting bad habits.


Haunted bike path

You’re going to think this is really stupid, Reader Zero, but it spooked me, so here goes. I was riding my bike to the gym this morning, and when I was about 100 meters from the intersection, I saw another cyclist going by on the cross street who looked exactly like Dan. He was tallish and thin, wearing jeans and a red plaid shirt, and had some kind of facial hair. The thing that got me was his hat: an orange straw fishing cap.

It’s an unusual kind of hat to have, and there’s a bit of history that goes with it. Dan used to go fishing with his grandfather and uncles when he was growing up, and he remembered them wearing straw hats. Not the Huckleberry Finn kind with the brim going all the way around, more like a baseball cap in shape, but made out of straw. Before we had kids, we used to spend a lot of time car camping out in the boonies of California, Nevada and Oregon. Anytime we’d come to an old-time general store, especially in some town where tourists came to fish, we’d ask around for a cap like that. I don’t remember where or when, but after years of looking, Dan found one. It was sort of a hideous shade of orange, but Dan deemed it good enough.

This was that hat.

It looked so much like him, it sort of freaked me out. The only thing that was really different was that this guy was holding a cup in one hand–presumably coffee. Dan never drank coffee while he rode his bike. If it hadn’t been for that detail, I would have had to follow this person so I could get a look at his face.