Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Contact with Nature (Astoria)

So, as of today I'm off on another trip -- this time to Astoria, on the Oregon side of the mouth of the Columbia River. Beautiful little town, full of interesting buildings and businesses, and v. walkable. But the most unusual thing that happened today was my rescuing a rabbit from a ferret.

It happened like this: we were walking up the long, long slope to the top of Coxcomb Hill (600 feet) when we saw something dark explode out of the tall grass to one side. It rolled over and over, making frantic little noises. Going closer, we saw that it was a tiny little rabbit being attacked by a weasel or ferret. Both animals were small and black. I ran up and waved my hat about and shouted until the two separated and I was able to interpose myself enough to shoo off the ferret, which after some hesitation ran back off into the tall grass on the right from whence it had come. The little rabbit ran off in the opposite direction.  Good deed for the day done (at least from the rabbit's point of view; not so much, I suppose, for the hungry ferret).

Or so you'd have thought. I'd no sooner got my breath back and we'd started climbing the hill again than a crow over at the other end started swooping at something. I've read WATERSHIP DOWN* and so know all about crows sometimes attacking small rabbits, esp. possibly wounded ones, so I made a second and longer run (luckily this time without having to go up-slope) till I got close enough to shoo the crow away as well**.  That just left the little rabbit, who still seemed essentially unhurt. It ran about halfway to the tall grass on the left side of the slope, hundreds of feet from where it'd originally been, and flopped over on its side, seemingly exhausted. I hovered over it till it got its breath a little, then when I moved closer it got to its feet and hopped the last little bit to get undercover to safety.

And there I left it, having done all I could do. I hope it was able to rest and recover, and that nothing more was wrong with it than sheer exhaustion for having had to run for its life. It'd certainly fought hard against the weasel/ferret, and I'm glad I was able to give it a helping hand.

From there it was on up to the top of the hill, to walking around and admire the Astoria Column (modeled on Hadrian's Column, it seems, but with Astoria-themed scenes spiraling around the outside all the way up). Janice climbed the internal spiral stairway all the way to the observation level on the top; I was not able to (acrophobia) but enjoyed the view from the hill and the mural-like frescos on the outside.

And speaking of nature, I'd had two other incidents within the past few days I'd meant to blog on. The second was our seeing a raccoon in our complex early Sunday afternoon. I never doubted they might be around -- our previous place at Chandler's Bay had both raccoons and possums, who ate the nom we put out for stray cats -- but we'd never seen any sign of them at Bayview,*** and this was a large one too. It froze when it saw us and seemed trapped, with our car between it and where it wanted to be. Luckily when we pulled forward a bit it saw its chance and made its way over towards the nearest greenbelt and safety.

And the first and truly remarkable event was out seeing a sunbow on Saturday. We were out running errands and pulled up to Minkler's, a health-food and organics store opposite the Renton airport. A man was standing outside, holding a baseball cap up in front of his face and facing upwards. As we were about to pass him, Janice stopped and said, "Okay, you've got my curiosity up; what's up?" He explained and pointed, and when we looked up in turn there it was: a sunbow. I've never seen one before, and if you haven't either here's Janice's picture of what it looked like:


--Except that while this picture gives an idea of what we saw, the real thing was even more striking. For one thing, the area at the center was an unbearably bright dot of light surrounded by white-bright, which all comes out as one smooth white disk. And the area inside was much darker than the surrounding sky outside the ring. The ring itself shimmered with rainbow colors, the yellow on the inside of the ring, then red, then blue.  It was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen, and it lasted a long time -- a good twenty/thirty minutes later we saw it again from along the banks of the Green River, where we'd gone to get some locally-grown strawberries, and Janice noticed that it was now in some places a double sunbow, fragments of a second ring having formed in several areas around the main one.

Nature: red in tooth and claw, right up among us when we least expect it, and wholly wondrous in its amazing beauty.

--John R.
current reading: PAINTED DEVILS by Rbt Aickman [?1979] -- the first book I've ever successfully inter-library-loaned through the King Co. Library system.

*a masterpiece!

**another time I'd have bought it off with peanuts, but I'd forgotten to bring any with me

***Janice adds: I've seen them -- a mother and three little ones -- one night while you were gaming.

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