On my way home from the grocery store, I saw not one but two raccoons. They were poking around a neighbor’s yard, looking shifty and devious. I was riveted, because while I’ve seen plenty of dead raccoons lying on the side of the road, I had never seen one still alive, and definitely not so close. I reflected afterward how thrilled I had been to see them, when most city folk would have rolled their eyes and tightened the lids on their trash cans. Why was it such a big deal for me?
I suppose it’s because I’m not a city person. I come from a small town in Montana, where the animals that rummaged through our flowerbeds were deer, not raccoons. We didn’t have pigeons or huge, bushy-tailed squirrels either. Our town was just a brief interruption in the unspoiled landscape all around, but a city cannot be so dismissed. It is an ecosystem unto itself, with birds, squirrels, rats, mice, and even raccoons making their living in ways no other animal had done until a few centuries ago. In the science blog Not Exactly Rocket Science I read about research showing that birds are having to adapt their communication methods to the noise of the city. These most highly concentrated clumps of humanity provide a boon for these animals, and these animals are evolving instep.
This is what I thought of as I watched those two raccoons, staring calmly at me as I watched them, when their cousins in that small town back home would probably have bounded away long before I came so close. Life works its way in everywhere.
I wish I had brought my camera.