I planned on going for a long, intense walk and then sitting down to write. The writing came sooner than expected. I was walking along a somewhat beaten path when I looked over and saw a patch of earth covered over in fallen leaves, above it a canopy of trees. My issue was that in order to get to it, I’d have to step through a less tame ramble of branches. What’s the big deal about some branches? Moments before this a string of my own hair scared the crap out of me. Let’s just say I’m jumpy.
But I’d love to go backpacking through the Appalachian and John Muir Trails one day. How the heck will I do that if I’m scared of a wee bit of brush?
Besides, I wanted to sit somewhere and write, and I likely wasn’t going to find a more lovely spot than this.
So I lifted my walking stick in front of me as a first defence and wandered in. The canopy of trees gently let in golden light; the ground was speckled with a rainbow of browns and beiges. First I started writing. Then I started studying the ground around me, which lead me to taking photos and collecting specimens. I’ve dabbled in flat lays before, but now I’ve finally discovered a style that I might like to play with.
I hadn’t planned on bringing anything home, so I was stuffing things into the pockets of my bag and hoping they didn’t get destroyed.
Note to self: Bring a jar next time.
After some time spent writing, collecting and experimenting with flat lays on my knee, I was ready to head home.
I was feeling proud of myself for having gone off the beaten path. I was commending myself on taking a small step toward being able to backpack through a forest some day. And then it happened.
Noises in the bush. Louder than lizards make. I’m out in nature all the time and lizards rustling through brush still makes me take notice. A squirrel, maybe?
It’s not a fucking squirrel. You already know, it’s a raccoon.
It’s standing on its hind legs, and it’s staring at me with round black eyes that, quite frankly, give no signs of its emotional state. We are so close. It’s next to a tree and I’m standing on an open path. There’s no options. I have to walk past it. It’s a surprise I don’t pee on myself even a little bit, and I’ll carry that pride for the rest of my life.
I stomp my walking stick on the ground and make some random weird noises (at least I think I did. Memory takes a back seat in life or death situations). The creature doesn’t move. This is when I realize that I have absolutely zero idea what to do when coming across a raccoon. Do I act friendly? Do I act threatening? Will staring into its eyes make it feel more comfortable or is that a sign of aggression?
I smile at it. An awkward, hesitating smile that sinks when I see no positive reaction from the raccoon. I start walking and it stands frozen, save for it’s head that swivels slowly as I pass. I throw out some quick glances to let it know I’m still on high alert? Or that I’m not a threat? I have no idea what I’m doing, but if that thing is coming for my face I wanted to know about it. I try my hardest to not show fear, but creatures are more sensitive than we are, so I probably reek of fear; let’s just be honest.
Thankfully, it never moved. I get a few feet away and pick up the pace. My heart beats so hard and fast it might just unhinge itself from my chest and drop down into my bowels. But I make it out, heart and bladder intact.
I love being out in nature, but creatures freak me out. This encounter with a raccoon was a worst case scenarios for me and I survived. Not only that, once I was sure it was over, I laughed and was happy for the crazy experience. Would I ever want to be in this situation again? Heck no. Will I be searching what to do in case of a raccoon encounter? Yes, I will.
What do you love most about being out in nature? What terrifies you?
My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?