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Friday, July 28, 2006

Scentless apprentice

I was just outside doing a bit of stargazing and satellite-viewing. The sky is slightly hazy and a little bit cloudy, not as ideal as last weekend. Plus my binoculars totally fogged over, which was a bit of a pain. I cleaned them with my T-shirt.

I tracked a very bright satellite that passed almost directly overhead - that was pretty cool. I think I saw one of my Messier objects again, but it was hard to be sure - it was just a fuzzy gray blob against a slightly darker fuzzy gray background, with pinpricks of stars here and there. On a darker, clearer night it would be easier to tell.

So. After a bit of neck-craning and lens-cleaning I decided to take a little break. Just relax my eyes, gaze along the ground. Look at the "thing" tree that I will have to eventually cut down before its runners take over the world; look at the corn stalks mysteriously and incongrously growing around it - hey, I didn't plant them!; look at the bird feeder in the foregound; look at the large furry thing moving along the ground towards me...

I let out a quick Hsssst. Universal tongue, means I am here. The thing picked up its black head and noticed me. Was that a shock of white I saw?

It turned away from me, largely, longly, blackly.

I couldn't see it. My eyes are good for seeing in the dark, but it was better at not being seen in the dark. But I had light-gathering devices hanging around my neck. I picked up the binoculars and swept along the ground.

There is something amazingly beautiful and graceful about the way a skunk moves when it is trying to move with stealth. Its wedge-shaped head with a slim shock of white was turned purposefully, perpendicular to my position. Its tail - black, unadorned by a white stripe, thankfully not upright or pointed in my direction - seemed to go on forever. It carried no whiff of scent - even at ten yards, I should have still smelled it.

It left me alone - disappointed, no doubt, that it didn't get a free meal of cat food. I'm sure it will be back.

I'm glad I didn't surprise it too much. Sitting in my Adirondack chair, black sweatshirt and pale white legs against the milky-green paint, I was a pretty easy target.

Maybe next time.

1 comment:

anne said...

I too think skunks are quite beautiful.

We just went to visit our son at scout camp yesterday evening and he told us that there have been some skunks skuning around the camp. His leader saw one in their picnic table area the one night and, naturally, went to get all the scouts so they could go look at it as well. Then another one turned up. They sat and watched them both forage around until the skunks moved on.

I'm glad he has the type of leader that will gather the guys around to see the skunks rather than try to keep them away. Maybe some parents wouldn't feel that way.