One of my favorite places to be in the autumn is at our remote cabin in the Smokies. Not only are the leaves blazing incredible shades of amber, burgundy, and nutmeg, but the mountain critters seem intent on getting to know us two-legged pink creatures nonnative to their natural habitat.
May I share some of these beasties that bring me joy? (And maybe sometimes a little knee knocking as well.)
We have lots of bird varieties, but none quite as spectacular as this pretty fellow who dropped by with his little missus this spring. He’s a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and the happy couple seemed to enjoy one particular bird feeder above all the others. Funny how that happens. On each visit to our cabin, Spouse and I wager friendly bets on which seemingly random bird feeder will be the fan fave among the local bird
population. This summer it was the feeder on the north side of the cabin. This fall it’s the feeder hanging just outside my upstairs computer desk window that was all but ignored in the summer. Three avian friends are hovering just outside the window glass there right now, not even three feet away from my face, staring back at me as I’m typing this. For some reason, this location is the Mecca this year and birds of all sizes and shapes fight hourly over the privilege of watching me work.
Actually, I feel honored that they trust me enough to hang out in such close proximity. It took them a couple of hours to size me up but now I guess I’ve passed the test. A wee titmouse (whose name makes me giggle) even landed on my open windowsill yesterday while I was refilling the feeder and seriously considered hopping inside to read what I was writing on my computer.
Lots of chipmunks abound, generally congregating beneath the bird feeders where their winged friends provide a constant flood of discarded seed upon which to dine. Of course, for my northern friends, chipmunks are -YAWN – no biggie, but for this Floridian who never sees a rodent without a long bushy tail scoot across her yard and down a hole in the ground, they’re a treat.
Thankfully, we don’t see many of these (skunks) up here, but we’ve surely driven through the aftermath of the sad
demise of more than one on the highway. Pewwwwie. You could taste the smell. I’ve only seen one skunk up close and personal in these mountain woods in the 30+ years we’ve been visiting, and as soon as he waddled out of the brush onto the path ahead of me, I totally yielded the right of way, skedaddling the opposite direction as fast as my chubby legs would carry me.
We’ve had a handful of bear citing’s over the years, the funniest being the time my grown daughter, in nothing but a towel from just stepping out of the shower and seeing Yogi staring in through the living room picture window, chased the poor startled bear through the woods in 45 degree weather to try and snap a photo.
The most recent was last fall, when, after promising and promoting and preparing our long awaited tent-camping sleepover for the twin five-year-old grands with Mimi on the clearing in the woods near our cabin, a bear showed up the night before to ransack our bird feeders. Suddenly that flimsy tent lost its appeal and we postponed the campout indefinitely.
Then there are the coyotes. I don’t love these critters. I don’t even like these critters. Not enough to even include a picture. Especially since a pack of them attacked and almost ended the life of our brave little dog years ago. (The whole miraculous story is in my book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate.) I just can’t
find anything redeeming about them to like. Yet it still fills my heart with wonder and praise to the Master Creator when I’m privileged to encounter any wild creature … from a safe distance. Even a wicked, mangy coyote.
Hey, they’re not like foxes. Yes, yes, I know foxes are carnivores like the coyotes, and wouldn’t hesitate to snatch my little Yaz for a midnight snack, but something about them I find incredibly beautiful. Maybe it’s their luxurious tails, which I wish my hair looked more like. Ha! I don’t know, but somehow I don’t put them in the same category with blood-sucking coyotes. It gave me no end of delight when I encountered this happy young fox cavorting in the meadow near one of my favorite mountain paths last spring.
But my proudest moment of mountain critter history just occurred last week. Yep. An honest-to-goodness mountain lion. I guess I knew they were in these hills somewhere but I truly have never given bobcats a single thought as none have been reported in our neck of the woods. To my knowledge. Which is obviously not extensive enough.
Spouse and I were driving around a big mountain curve on the nearly deserted road from the nearest town to our remote cabin, when WHOA! What at first looked like a brown dog ran across the road in front of us. But it didn’t lope like a dog … it glided gracefully like a cat. But it was a lot bigger. It had a short tail. A bobtail. And then it stopped on the other side of the road and turned around to stare at us as Spouse slammed on our brakes and we stared back. This is not a photo of that particular critter, because I couldn’t tear my eyes away to fumble around in my purse to find my phone/camera in time. But this is the same picture that’s indelibly printed in my memory of that amazing moment.
I declare I was on a critter high for a week. I wasn’t kidding when I said Papa God’s critters bring me joy. They really do. Like nothing else.
And I wonder if that’s not why He often brings them in my path. Because he loves to bring his children joy. And He knows how to push my joy button.
So what brings you joy, dear BFF? How has Papa God pushed your joy button recently?