wasps in the palace
they’ve hollowed under the hill.
Mole resting his face against his splayed hands.
Mark Doty’s poem “The Owner of the Night” nails it. Nature, especially on summer nights, reveals itself to be populated by legions, our companions on this living planet. For one thing, the insect chorus after dusk is deafening even before you add the frog baritones who chimed in until we reluctantly gave up on having a pond during the West Nile crisis. Their combined voices created a friendly white noise which has lulled us to sleep for decades.
Individually, not so much. One September night a persistent cricket had the almighty nerve to bring his grinding love serenades indoors. He was hiding inside the staircase, I judged, so I waited with a shoe ready but he survived to woo again.
On the topic of sleepless nights, here’s a trick for dropping off: imagine what or who is in your garden. Only feet away from your bed there are whole quiet families in full swing. The dayshift - chipmunks and squirrels and hawks - may be sound asleep but nocturnal lives are lived just as fully. I realize that it is considered odd to admit this but you know that I am no stranger to “odd.” so finding a mother raccoon and two rambunctious kits asleep on the stone window ledge outside the bedroom was a gift. They stayed for several days, Mom searching for food at night and coming home exhausted to nurse and even tolerate her fully-rested babies’ hijinks. Once they mastered climbing the old vine on that wall, she moved them - presumably to yet another learning centre. We felt graced by their visit.
Jewell, our first Skye terrier, always went out at night before we all went to bed. There are coyotes, even coy wolves, in the river ravine behind us and every year we heard reports of small dogs who have been snatched and devoured, so one night I insisted on accompanying Jewell. She was not amused. It turned out that she had an elaborate and difficult route, some of which involved climbing under fences and tracing exact perimeters. Maybe she was just trying to shake me because the baleful glances she periodically delivered made no bones about the violation of her privacy. After that we reluctantly allowed her to wander alone after dark but not without the instruction “Try not to get eaten.”
Can’t say that I’ve ever painted a mole. We see their wee drowned bodies on paths after a rain but this opossum - North America's only marsupial - peeking out of the dark is fully alive, sporting both a face and splayed hands so I hope she will do. I like to think that in the moist secrecy of her pouch, her embryonic babies are already learning to love the dark.