All Creatures Great and Small

The Crankee Yankee and I have had a long-standing relationship with our resident skunks. We’ve lived in our house for the past ten years, and the skunks have lived under the shed across from our stone wall for goodness knows how long. We have fed generations of them.

I don’t know if they have a sort of hive memory or not, but we have been able to get quite close to them over time. Their eyesight is pretty poor, but they have an acute sense of smell (ironic when you think of the stink they can generate). Perhaps they are used to our smell; who knows? When we bring food out for them, they keep their distance, but chow down as soon as we walk away.

The Crankee Yankee gets up much earlier than I do; he likes to take his coffee out with him and survey the gardens and back yard. He also puts out breakfast for our most persistent stray cat, whom we call Stripey.

A few months ago, he went into the back yard and saw a small skunk with something on its head. Carefully, he went closer. The poor thing had gotten his head stuck in a plastic cup, and couldn’t get it off. The Crankee Yankee knew better than to go up to it and pull the cup off. So he did the next best thing; he picked up what we always called the “grabbis” (see below).

While speaking in a low, soothing voice, he carefully pulled the plastic cup off. The skunk didn’t make a move to turn and spray; he just patiently allowed the Crankee Yankee to help him.

Once he was rid of the cup, the skunk turned and scooted off toward the food and water we had put out. The poor thing must have been very hungry and thirsty, and it was fortunate that the Crankee Yankee was there to help.

Most people I know don’t like skunks, but they, like us, are here for a purpose. Personally, I think that there can be a connection between us and the animal world. It’s rare, but it does happen.

And everyone needs a little help now and then, even a little skunk with a plastic cup on its head.

“*All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.”

*”All Things Bright and Beautiful,” hymn by Cecil F. Alexander.

Beauty Everywhere

I hope that you saw the sunset last night. I was driving home from visiting a friend, and the sunset was incredible. It was as if the sky was on fire; the clouds were tinted gold and saffron and fire-y pink against a china blue sky. It was, quite simply, amazing.

When I pulled up in the driveway, the Crankee Yankee was leaning on the bannister on the deck, gazing up at the sky. We both said, “wow! Some sunset, huh?” Then we both smiled and kept on looking up.

This time of year the leaves are turning their gorgeous autumnal colors. In what we call “the williwags” (the small ponds surrounded by trees and brush by the side of the road), the swamp maples are a deep garnet red. Many of the summer flowers are still blooming, and our neighbor’s red and pink roses are still magnificent. Even down around the pond where I walk is a riot of golden rod, orange-y jewel weed, milkweed pods bursting with silver-white fluff, ecru Queen Anne’s lace, blackeyed Susans, daisies, pink clover and more.

The pond itself is a deep azure blue, and the ducks and cormorants still bob on the surface, occasionally going under to snack on the foliage below. The turtles lie out in rows along the logs, blinking slowly as they soak up the warm sun. In the reeds by the pond’s edge there are always a few dignified long-legged blue herons, standing in the shallows and watching for lunch to swim by.

There are beautiful monarch butterflies everywhere now. I remember that during one of Mom’s and Dad’s summer vacations in Maine, there was a rare monarch butterfly migration. Mom said that they were everywhere, and it was really something to see. Dad told her that they looked like “Halloween kites.” I remember that each time I see one.

Our garden is still bursting with tomatoes and green peppers and small sweet ears of corn. The tomato patch looks like Aladdin’s cave of jewels; all rich reds and golds. The pepper vines are heavy with emerald green peppers, and still there are creamy white blossoms on the vines, signaling more to come.

A New England fall is a singularly beautiful time of year. No wonder all the city folk like to visit and take in the sights. Years ago, when Ruggles Mine in Grafton, NH was still open, a friend and I went up for the day. After we went through the mines, we found a sunny spot on one of the bluffs and stretched out in the sun. It was in the fall, and down in the valley the trees were all in full color. From where we were, it looked like endless scoops of red, yellow, orange, umber and gold.

During this beautiful season, be sure to look around. Take in the sights, smell the flowers while they are still blooming, check out the trees for colors, and look up at the stars at night against a velvety deep blue sky. It’s a feast for the senses, so eat it up while you can!