‘Something woke me up. What was it? I thought. ‘Why did the deck motion light switch on in the dead of night? I lay there fretting, ears straining…’
Being in a little off-grid, boat-access-only cabin, you have to know the wildlife is quite predominant, with less human life in the surrounding forest. We get all manner of critters here, though, many we hope not to see, animals like ‘lions and tigers and bears, oh no.’ (Seriously, there are no tigers.) Welcome to my forest are the deer, and the smaller, to me, less menacing, and less frightening of creatures. After all, we are the visitors, and we are in their back yard, too. This weekend, at least for this night, on our bay of only four cabins nearby, mine is the only occupied residence. And so, I am always alert, especially in the darker hours for roaming and curious creatures. I have placed a motion-sensored light on my deck at the top of one set of the stairs. This way, as we sleep, it will go on if an animal gets up onto the deck. The deck is surrounded by fencing, and has two gates, but critters still can get up there. Night One, is the one night that all of our perishable food is still in the coolers, and I always keep my coolers outside the door on the deck. My propane fridge, although lit, is not cold enough yet for the food to keep safely. I therefore, keep the food on ice packs in the coolers until morning, when the fridge is fully up to the correct temperature for assured safety and to have no chance of spoilage. So, Night One, I am my usual tad of ‘Nervous Nelly’, as my meat and poultry sit outside on the deck like a dinner bell to the bears and other animals. Yes, I could move it all inside, but truth be told, it’s a spatial issue in my small cabin, and with paper thin walls, a fully opened, but screened front window with dimensions of 2 feet, by 4 feet, there really is no protection from large hungry animals anyway, inside or on the deck. So, in my little brain, I’d rather they eat the food out on the deck, and not break into my cabin. Yes, I am fully aware that having food outside is a dinner bell in itself, but food inside affords no extra protection from any animals with open windows in the summer heat anyway. Be assured, Dear Reader, we have never had bear or wild animal issues with our food in all the 55+ years I have been here, (except that one little bear who smelled my chicken BBQ’ing just that once, (please see my post, ‘The Bear With the BBQ Chicken Desire’). I am also not aware of any of my immediate neighbours having bear or wild animal issues with food, but that doesn’t mean I am not alert and aware, just the same. There I was, trying to sleep, noticing the almost total silence of the late hours, so different from in the city. In the late hours, there is also no sound of water lapping, as it is dead calm, no trees normally rustle because of the sleeping winds, and the crickets have stopped their chirping for the night. I heard a frog once, which was very strange because I haven’t heard one in years here, (there is another post, written later, on the return of frogs now, see, ‘A Frog is Back, I Expect That’s a Good Sign That Our Natural Habitat is Still Thriving’). The silence is so intense that you can be lying in your bed, head on your pillow, and hear nothing but the blood pumping in your ears, with every beat of your heart. I don’t experience this at home in the city, where the hum of city life truly never goes quite that silent. As I lay there, on went the motion-sensored light, then off and then on again, more than once, yet I really was hearing nothing. I say to myself, ‘it’s a mouse, it’s nothing, stop worrying. A bear or bigger animal would have a heavy step and make more noise. Go back to sleep.’ Then I listen harder. Is it an aging thing? I’ve been coming here for over 55+ years, why am I so nervous now? In the early morning hours, (and several motion-light incidents), my friend who has come to help me here, gets up and to see what it is. If it isn’t the grey cat, the grey cat is back! It’s so weird to see a wandering domestic animal in the middle of a forest, never mind the middle of the night. By the early morning hours, we find out both of the grey cats are back. These are the cats I have seen on or off over the past couple of years here. They are apparently domesticated, with flea collars on them, but they are not cats that belong to any of my neighbours close by in our bay. This means they are out loose, travelling and hunting by night, and are still managing to survive from any of the possible wild animals who live here. The first time I saw them, maybe two or three years ago, I remember thinking my neighbour had been joking with me when she said there were a couple of grey cats around. How I first saw one, then the other, was a rather funny story, although it didn’t start out that way, let me share it with you here...
‘It is completely dark outside, and the heat of this night was not letting me immediately sleep. How I love a late-night dip in the lake to cool off before bed. This night I just didn’t do that, and so now I am paying the price because of my decision to skip that missed opportunity to cool down. It is now very late, and into the early hours of tomorrow, but it’s still hot and I need to cool off, although truthfully, a dip in the lake at this point might only wake me up further. As I notice my travelling companion is sound asleep, I decide to grab a flashlight and sneak outside. Normally I would just go and sit on the deck, or I might go down to the dock, but there is something safer, at least in my mind, with going out to the rock point where I can sit on the bench, and feel more protected. The rock point is really a tiny island with our ramp going out to it, all be it such a short distance and so we have always referred to it as ‘The Point’. I feel safer out there after dark because there is only two ways on to the Point, from our two-plank wide ramp, and from the adjoining neighbours dock, which is attached to the Point on one side.
It is a beautiful night, this night, not a hint of a breeze, cooler outside, but not chilly, and I turn off my flashlight to sit down on my bench. The two-seater bench is perched about the middle of the Point on the highest part, and it is next to where the tire rim is cemented into the rock so we can have those great campfires. This is a lovely spot to use both in the evening, around the fire-pit rim, but also in the daytime where I can enjoy and appreciate the spectacular view for miles and miles down the lake from my property. It’s a beautiful spot, and for this time of the night, a good spot to feel calm and safe as I sit here all alone in the dark.
Suddenly, the bushes behind me rustle! I stop my calm, nighttime appreciation, and start to get a tad anxious, straining my ears to listen. The bench faces towards the lake, both my path from shore and the neighbour’s dock are technically behind me as I sit there. Now, there is was again! I’m wondering what to do because the sounds are definitely coming from the very path I would have to retreat to if I wanted to go back to the safety of the cabin. I prefer not to disturb the neighbours next door at this hour, and so I would not be able to retreat quietly that way. Now what do I do?
Suddenly, I see two glowing eyes belonging to a low moving animal as I look behind my left shoulder in the direction towards where I hear the sounds. I am trying so hard to focus my eyes on what this animal is. Are you kidding me? Why, it’s a cat, there is a cat out here! How strange to have a cat approach me in the middle of the night, when I am clearly away from anyone I know who owns a cat here. I know all my neighbours in this bay, and this cat does not belong to any of them.
The cat comes over to me, clearly friendly, and I start to speak softly to it. Immediately it jumps up on the bench next to me and starts to purr. Okay, so this is not a feral, (a wild) cat, it is domesticated, but where is it from? It also has a flea collar on it, so it is someone’s pet for sure. Then a second, slightly smaller one appears, but this one is a little more nervous to come close to me, and so it is sitting a few feet away, possibly waiting for this friend who is now crawling all over me, begging for stroking, which I am doing, and it is really purring loudly. This is such a surreal encounter to have in a remote area of the forest in the middle of the night. I can tell you one thing, I am incredibly grateful it is just small cats and not any other bigger beasts, or even those bigger cats, the Cougar, or Mountain Lion, which is not uncommon to this area. Gratefully, I have never had one of those near my cabin, at least not that I know of. So, look at this, who knew, cats out in the bush!’
This night, here they were again, the bigger one, and the slightly more skittish one, on my cabin deck late at night, and obviously the reason my motion-lights were going on and off. One was up on my couch trying to stare in through the large screened window that is open.
The next day, in the early hours of the morning when I wandered off to go to the outhouse for my morning ‘walk’, there the larger one was again, rubbing up against my leg, and wanting me to pet it, which I gladly did, resulting in that loud, content purring again. The larger cat returned to our deck off andon for a couple of days, and marched right into the open doors of the cabin more than once. We did not feed it, because it was very healthy looking and we knew it had a home somewhere around us.
It is rather surreal to see domestic animals in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea who owns them, but with the flea collars, someone clearly does. I can only assume they have travelled over the hill from the Northeast direction and the cabins that are over in that way. In the other direction, it would be quite a feat to traverse from any cabins, with the tall cliffs and more forest area to the next inhabited property around the bay on that side. I know the owners over at that next cabin, and they also do not have a cat. When I googled grey cats with the unusual yellow or orange eyes, like these two did, a breed came up that was stated to be very suitable to outdoor living, often used as farm and barnyard cats, for instance. I believe these cats just might be the ‘Chartreux’ breed, which is a very friendly breed that are good outdoors, and also good at being ‘mousers’. They also have an extremely soft, dense, grey (almost silver-like) fur like these cats do. Well, these beautiful kitties are very sweet, and friendly, and so, tonight, as the lights go on, there is no need to be such a worry-wart, it’s not ‘lions and tigers and bears, oh no’, it a couple of cute little cats.