The smell of summer.

The cats are curious why I insist on picking them up and sniffing them before the letting them in the house. The night before while introducing my daughter to Indiana Jones with all the windows open the smell of skunk came powerfully through the house. We closed the windows but I wondered “who is having a bad night?” and resolved to check to prevent a repeat of last year when the dog made it inside with the slightest spray-over of “Ode de Skunk”. That ended with a bath at eleven PM for the dog and a shower at midnight for me.

No cats failed (or passed) the smell test and the morning continues. The skunk I have seen from time to time is large and glossy and fat enough for his sides to flop when he saunters unhurriedly across the field and looks more like a small dog than a cat. He will kill a chicken if he finds one and spray the errant dog or cat but he mostly sticks to mice and yellow jacket nests. More than once I have some across a dug out nest in the woods with paper shredded around. For that alone he earns his keep and I make sure to shut the coop door at night to keep the peace.

Currently two chickens are brooding in the barn but the skunk never seems to find them, they sit all night silently on the nest and maybe skunks don’t have a good sense of smell. There is no room in the coop for them and they insisted on going broody at the same time, so here we are. It is not perfect here; black plastic drapes the gardens’ edge and cardboard in between the rows. I keep meaning to move that door over to the barn and the poison oak is coming up in the meadow and the lawnmower is broken again having worked for a total of one hour after the last repair before the fuel pump went bad. So on Sunday I left the mower in the field and went to the lake.

While my wife and one son canoed. I paddled a kayak for the first time in a decade and barely remembered how not to tip over. The rudder didn’t work and I careened as the wind pushed the bow and stern alternately. As the boy’s chatter dropped in and out of my hearing over the wind, the sky threatened rain than never arrived and for a moment the world narrowed down to balance, wind, waves and water. The late afternoon clouds were pierced with shafts of light while the air lay heavy with a languid breeze. In the moment the constant churn of thought in my head slowed and stopped as I paddled back to shore. I stumbled awkwardly out nearly swamping myself in the process. But to forget about the pandemic and work and the million tasks proved worth the work of loading and unloading (and reloading and re-unloading) the watercraft. Then home, dinner, a movie with a moment of feline inspection in the morning.

For days now I have been worrying at this post asking “what’s the point here anyway?”. Wednesday now and the rain finally arrives and the land seems to breath after two unseasonably warm weeks. Sitting in the pre-child time of morning while the dog snores my mind returns to the skunk; like all nature they are neither wicked nor virtuous but they play an important roll in the land we live on; good stewardship is accepting their impacts while recognizing their virtues. So maybe the lesson is simply to pay attention. I would be less keen on the skunk had I never seen the broken hornet nest. Sometimes its important to stop enjoy the moment, and other times is is important to smell the cats.

4 thoughts on “The smell of summer.

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