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Around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, I finally shut off the tablet and the light to go to sleep, when –as if on cue, an otherworldly howl shuddered through the woods. It was a lonely howl, unanswered. Usually the dogs of the neighborhood call to one another late at night. I worry about them since it’s getting colder and I wonder why their owners let (or make) their dogs stay outside all night. But this particular howl wasn’t dog-like, or wolf-like, or like any coyote I’d ever heard either. It was a mix of canine and human-like cries. Logically, I told myself it could be an animal in the throes of death, in the clutches of another animal, and those encounters can bring about strangely horrific sounds. Deer also make strange noises during rutting season – but it’s not the right time of year and it was only one howl, not likely a deer. I ruled out fisher, too, since it didn’t sound like a woman being murdered.

MTV’s Teen Wolf

My mind was full of inventive possibilities since I’d just finished watching the first season of MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” which is excellent. Season 2 is terrific, too, and I look forward to the third installment of the series, which is supposed to have 24 episodes. I liked the mix of settings from the woods to the lacrosse field to the classroom. It picks up on the same premise as the 1980s classic with Michael J. Fox, a movie I adored as a kid, but MTV put a slick modern spin on the story line: hunters, ancient mythology, werewolf packs. As much as I respect a girl who knows how to use a cross-bow, I had to hand it to Holland Roden, the actress who plays Lydia Martin, a redheaded popular girl, who is highly intelligent (perfect grades, leadership skills, on the path to winning a Fields Medal someday) teen-ager who plays dumb strategically. Roden’s portrayal of that complex character is refreshingly original. She’s sort of like a “Mean Girl” who gets a supernatural makeover and reveals herself to be much deeper than anyone guessed.

Holland Roden as Lydia

I think what I like best about Lydia’s character is that she reminds me of my friend, Jodie, in appearance and creative style. Jodie and I have the same birthday, and as Pisceans, we’re idealists. Lydia seems like an idealist, too, and romanticizes her relationship with her beau, Jackson, who goes through a bit of a monstrous metamorphosis, with many, many manifestations. Good thing Lydia knows archaic Latin and sees his true colors (even though he is a snake at times, quite literally!) The show is great -but if you can’t handle suspense or supernatural horror/violence, then pass on this one. This show beats the Twilight series in a number of categories, one being werewolf fights. Well choreographed! The plot is 10x more compelling in “Teen Wolf” than in many other supernatural series on screen today. Two thumbs up!

Then this morning around 6 a.m., a large dark animal crept over the stone wall in my backyard. It moved stealthily. It was bigger than a dog, even the German Shepherds on either side of my house, and stayed low to the stone wall, creeping like a cat. My dog went bananas, throwing herself at the door. My cats peered out the window. Everyone seemed to buzz with excitement. I guessed it to be the bobcat that shows up in my backyard every winter–only this year she/he is early. My cats seemed to run from window to window, taunting my dog: “the bobcat’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble, hey now, hey now, the bobcat’s back!” I waited a while before I took my dog out on her leash so she could sniff around. I could tell by my dog’s tail that the bobcat was long gone.

Tonight on my way home, after dark, the headlights of the Subaru flashed a pair of glowing eyes in a dark shape moving across the road. It looked like a very big black dog. It didn’t have a collar – at least not one that was visible – and it walked in an awkward way, its shoulders pronounced and protruding above and behind its head. It stopped on the side of the road and turned to face my car, as I slowly drove past, thinking it was a neighbor’s dog out too late, unattended. No houses or people walking nearby, no driveways around. I hope–if it was someone’s dog–that it got home alright. On the other hand, a part of me wondered if it was a stray, a lost dog or a wild dog. This area has been known for wild dogs for over 60 years, though there hasn’t been a large pack since the 1950s, according to the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife guys I asked two years ago. Around here, there is an unspoken understanding among hunters, too, that if they see an animal they believe is a “wild dog,” they’re allowed to shoot it, even if it turns out to be someone’s pet. That’s the part of the culture and deeply-embedded mythology of this place that’s real, not fiction. It’s what people believe, and what their fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers, told them as children to believe. There may not be werewolves around here, but the hunters believe in wild dogs. And they walk right through my woods at Nixie’s Vale.

My mother had a glass of wine in her hand as she shrilled into the phone midsip, “What will you do if the bobcat comes to your door?”

“What do you mean, if he comes to my door? I don’t think I’ll invite him in, Mom. And I highly doubt he’ll come knocking on my door. They’re shy.”

“Right. But what’s your plan if that does happen? You have to think about these things, Leah.”

“Mom, I’m not worried about the bobcat that passed through my woods on Saturday. I’d be more worried about the vagrants. Men I see wandering up and down the road, ducking into little shacks.”

“It’s the economy. Everyone’s struggling, Leah. Are you really worried about men knocking on your door?”

“Not this time of year, Mom. But in the summertime, when I’m standing in my yard at 2a.m. in my nightgown to let the dog out, I look into the dark woods and wonder if anyone is out there, meandering through my land, watching me.”

“You watch too many scary movies, Leah. You’re paranoid.”

“Mom, you’ve called me asking what I’m to do if the bobcat comes to my door. Some people have suggested I get a shotgun. Of course I’d have to take a safety class first. My boss’s husband, the retired homicide detective, said the sound of a shotgun being cocked in the night is enough to scare off anyone lurking in my living room.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant, just brilliant. Good plan. The whole country is gun-crazy. Get on that bandwagon, will you,” she sniped, sipping again. “I meant mace or pepper spray,” she went on.

“This is an asinine argument, Mom,” I said, raising my voice, “I’m not getting a gun and the bobcat is not knocking on my door. I don’t watch scary movies. And I’m not getting close enough to a bobcat to spray it with mace.”

“Leah, you need to relax,” she said.

After I ended the call, I snapped the cell phone shut and tried to relax. I was relaxed, before. The fire licked the window pane of the woodstove and the funny musical comedy program chimed in the background. The dog snored and kicked her feet a little on the opposite couch. A fat cat slept in the small space between the back of the sofa and my leg. I got up and looked out the back French doors, tall panes of cold glass that let in the bitter January night air. The moon’s bright and full, I thought. It’s the kind of night for wishing, wanting. I peered into the dark woods, searching for any sign, any movement. No breeze swept through the branches of my magic trees that dance all summer. The blizzards and nor’easter had rocked them and knocked them, but none fell. Seeing the bobcat creep over the stone wall at the back of my yard had surprised me—and the dog went bananas—but I never even found its tracks. Its charcoal gray feline form moved like a panther, or my little cat, Narnia, when she sneaks past the sleeping dog. This is my life in the shadows of the western mountains of rural Maine.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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