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Midnight Magic: Pipe Tobacco and Woodland Creatures

Have you ever seen a skunk hunting for bugs? I hadn’t. It’s very cute. I had no idea they pounced and did little hip shimmies. I was a little anxious seeing him at first, but he seemed totally unconcerned by my presence and treated me with the same casual indifference that a squirrel might.

I hadn’t planned to spend my evening watching a polecat, but after spending most of the day inside, I decided go to to campus to have a quick pipe by the pond before bed. I don’t smoke very often and take fewer evening strolls than I used to, but it seems to keep the mosquitoes away and is a good way to clear one’s head.

It was nice out, even with the heat, and there’s still some leftover lilies blooming in the pond. The bench I like was occupied, so I begrudgingly found a place near the bridge, feeling very wizardy as I lit my tobacco and put in my headphones. KU has an almost fairyland-like appearance at night, especially during firefly season, and the humidity made the full moon look impossibly large. It would have been nice for writing.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but sometimes I look forward to the possibility of being one- it must be nice to go where you like without being observed or having to worry about your surroundings. I about jumped out of my skin when two raccoons materialized next to me. My reaction was completely reflexive and a little sad- I literally stood up, snapped my fingers at them, and scolded them with a loud "PSSSST!!", exactly how I do when my cats are doing something naughty. I think it startled all three of us, but it worked and they turned and disappeared back into the shrubbery. Then I, feeling very silly, decided to find a new place to sit. I hope that I never run into bigger wildlife if that's my auto defense reaction.

The couple that had been occuping my bench had left by then, but with them gone and it getting late, I wanted to be closer to my car, so I decided to try the bench further up the hill. That's where I saw the skunk.

He was fairly small, and seemed totally unconcerned by both me and the fireworks overhead, which I thought was interesting. I guess living in city limits mean people and loud noises didn't bother him much. Admittedly, it's not the first time I've spent an evening watching fireworks with a skunk, but it is the first time I've done so knowlingly. I wasn't quite comfortable enough to go over to the bench, so I relit my pipe and settled on the stairs to watch him instead. It was just like watching a kitten play; he'd root around in the grass with his nose and paw at it, then shimmy and pounce on whatever moved. He even rolled around a little, the way dogs and cats do when they take a dust bath, and just seemed to be enjoying himself. It was adorable.

I've missed my night walks. I don't know if I'll be able to look at skunks the same way again, and I'm glad I got to experience something so utterly bizarre and magical. Monday morning might be more painful than usual after staying up so late, but it was worth it. Sometimes our souls need fed and rested by cuteness.


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