As I’m sitting here wrestling with a purring little buzz saw on my lap, I think of my father.
I always think of him in these cool days of fall. It was his favorite time of year. It was hunting season and he had an excuse to spend every moment he could, outside in the woods.
. But beyond hunting though, Dad had the deepest love of nature I have ever seen. He noticed flowers and bugs and the way the light shone through the golden leaves. He knew every animal track and what they meant. he could see a pile of poop and not only know what animal left it, but what they had been eating and where they found it.
Bobcats were pretty rare back when I was a kid. They had been hunted and trapped to very low numbers. Most hunters only thought of them as predator’s and competition for the pheasants and rabbits they, themselves were hunting.
Not dad. Maybe when he was younger, but by the time I came along to follow him around, he’d learned that everything had it’s place and that predator needed a meal too.
I remember him coming home one fall night all excited. He had watched a bobcat take down a rabbit and it stopped to look at him as if daring him to try and take it away. Another time, he found a mother and her den, but would never tell anyone where it was. He did tell me. He drove me to the hillside and pointed it out from the car window. I wanted to get out, but he said “No one should ever bother a mother and her young”.
So I grew up watching for bobcats. My first encounter was crawling through the brush by the river, to get to my favorite wading spot. As I worked my way under a downed tree, I came face to face with a young cat coming the other way. I’m not sure which of us was most startled. I know we both ran separate ways.
Here on my little farm, I’ve gone head to head with them on a number of occasions, but it’s never that big of a deal. They only stay in one section of their territory for a few days at a time and my losses are small. I’d rather made peace with them, long before I took in my first cat to rehab. My fathers words stuck with me. “The gotta eat too”.
So that brings me to today, a brilliant fall day when the leaves are drifting through the air like huge, chromatic snowflakes….and a bobcat on my lap. It’s not easy to write. I have to keep erasing the blotches of letters that her huge paws make when she slaps or walks across the keyboard. I have long sleeves on and she is chewing with abandon, but never hard enough to break the skin. She is teething and I and the dog, are her favorite chew toys.
When dog gets fed up with her, she climbs back up on my lap, begging for me to try and rub her tummy (an excellent opportunity for a tic check) and tickle her ears. Her purr is reverberating through the room like a distant lawn mower. With my hand in her mouth, I think of dad.
What would he think? A bobcat on my lap. How would he have felt last night, when a 70 pound deer pushed open the door and strolled into the living room to have me rub his tiny velvet antlers? Would he laugh about the 40 pound tortoise untying my shoelaces and begging to go outside in the sun?
I wish he could see it. I wish he could see it all. I wish he could feel the pulse of a deer not yet shot and how soft and silky the spot just under their chin is. I wish he could run his rough hands through the bobcats fur and feel the vibrations of it’s purring. I wish he could smell how the grey squirrels smell like spice when they are alive and how baby foxes play with teddy bears.
What I really wish…is that he could be with me when I return these animals to the wild. That he could watch how the porcupine is a little afraid at first, then excited, then gone up a tree. I wish he could drive down the road with me, see a deer in the field and I could call it’s name and it looks up from feeding. I wish he could be HERE.
But life isn’t like that is it? We loose the people we love. We leave others behind when we go. That’s how it’s supposed to be. One life gives to another and eventually leaves. If we are lucky, those lives are long, but even the short ones leave us with something.
Dad left me a lot. More than he could ever imagine. He’s still here somehow, he’s part of the bobcats, the deer, the tiny baby raccoons. Thanks dad. Thanks for all of it.
The bobcat is passed out on the rug with the dog and I and the tortoise can have a few quiet minutes to drink coffee and watch the leaves fall. I don’t know what he thinks about, but I’ll think of dad.