Image by Michael Scheltgen via Flickr
We both savor the fresh, night breezes of summer and we start early and stay late. As the weather permits I sleep next to the screen door, most nights from June through September. It is the next best thing to stretching out under the urban light filtered clouds or stars. Tortoise cat sleeps on a chair nearby or watches for mice and other critters through the screen.
In the wee morning hours Tortoise Cat was fussing to go all the way outside so I let her sit on the steps, attached to her longer backyard string. I lay back down, remaining restfully alert, just in case. Too soon I heard her yowl and jumped up, though I was not too concerned.
As I opened the screen door to peer out, supposing she had tangled her string in the deck chair already while chasing a mouse and was calling for my assistance, a terrified, medium-sized Raccoon shoved me aside and rushed in! By the security floodlights shining through the window I stared, thoroughly amazed, at this hefty young fellow who was sitting up on my bedding with paws stretched towards me, mouth opening and closing, with what looked like tears moistening the dark fur mask around his glistening eyes.
I cannot say how I knew this Raccoon was a male. Tortoise Cat and I have met the neighborhood Raccoon family and are somewhat acquainted - at a distance. We catch sight of them often, stealth-ambling past us on the way to or from the dumpsters, usually between mid-night and 3AM. Raccoon mom is huge compared to her two bulky 'teenagers' who I (somehow) take for brother and sister. The three littler ones who run behind? I have yet to get any notion of their genders.
"Hey, little guy", I said, "that Tortoise Cat is LOUD but she's tiny. You're almost 4 times her size, so muster up your courage, young friend, and hurry back outside so your folks won't worry!"
My Raccoon guest appeared to agree and crawled cautiously back into the doorway and peered out, but froze when he saw the Tortoise Cat still blocking the steps. I called to Tortoise Cat to show courtesy to our guest and make way for Raccoon's safe passage by, but, as usual, she did not comply with my wise instructions, and stood (well, actually she sat) her ground and began emitting a low, eerie, rumbling, surround-sound synergy of moan, groan, and growl while her eyes glinted and glared.
Then Raccoon uttered a trilling screech, crawled up onto the railing, jumped down, then scurried gracefully through the bamboo bushes and back into into the safety and comfort of the deep night's shadowy shrubs and darker corners. His mother and siblings must have been waiting nearby.
I was wide awake and this encounter happened in ordinary reality. Yet, as Raccoon is a long-term shamanic helper, I know there were messages and gifts in this visit. I realized how great a privilege this was and I feel highly honored. One night (or day) soon I will remember a shamanic dream with Raccoon and learn more.