Nothing Good Happens in the Woods

I’ve been saying it all week though I first heard it said by a friend, a Civil Rights Activist from Birmingham, Alabama who we’d invited to a party in Woodside.

“Nothing good happens in the woods,” she said, as she looked out over her shoulder in the direction of the Redwood trees. We gave her a different seat at the table, one where we could act as her buffer and she let herself go for awhile, laughing every so often to be polite, though she couldn’t shake her feeling. By the time our gracious hostess asked her and her filmmaker friend if they would like to spend the night to avoid the long  car ride back to Marin, we all knew the refrain, “Nothing good happens in the woods,” and we voiced it for her. She left dread behind as they drove away in a small, environmentally friendly car.

There is something about the woods behind their beauty and their quiet, almost a sense that things can materialize from nowhere. There are stories around here of men who returned from Vietnam, who’d had enough of horrors, who retired to the woods to live out their days in peace. I’d even seen one wandering on our property one day, almost as if he slid out from the grooves in the tree bark.

“I was here at a party once,” he said, his eyes the characteristic thousand-yard stare of veterans. He walked away before I could figure out was he real and would he want coffee or was he a haint of some kind.

I’ve tried to use that word “haint” three times now, but WordPress keeps autocorrecting it to hint. Take a hint, WordPress, it’s haint, a ghost, the specter of something possibly real, possibly not. We have to always wonder because the eye sees patterns and the brain makes meaning, seeing faces in almost anything including smoke.

The dog and I have arrived to our woods to check on my indoor/outdoor cat enclosure. Something split a panel of the wirecloth and judging by the results, it seems it was a mountain lion. Around the base of the enclosure, it had gnawed at the Redwood 2′ by 4’s and scratched at the plastic splashguard, testing for weaknesses until it gave way to hunger and split or sliced the wirecloth panel. There were no signs of wear or weakness in metal.

Last time we had mountain lions here, a pair of the spectral cats paced back and forth late at night working a circuit within ten feet of the deck, pressing, aggressive, ready to eat anything so famished were they. They had followed our studio tech, Doc–their vision of dinner–as he drove his truck down from his trailer to our back door,  probably rationalizing that he looked like a deer if deer walked on their hind legs, had long hair, smoked profusely, and cursed seamlessly while fixing things. Those cats wouldn’t back away, not even when my husband fired his shotgun into the air. Their hunger meant, “something good happens in the woods,” and they were hopeful as they approached the stairs, and any of us, man, woman, child, dog, or cat would do.

It seems they are back again. Last week, they snatched my beautiful, smoky grey Mama Kitty who was grumpy in a Maggie-Smith-as-Professor-McGonigal way but who wouldn’t hurt a fly. I imagine she was mesmerized and forgot to run away.

The beast broke into the cat enclosure and stole her. If I can face what is on the infrared video cam, I’ll know more. In the meantime, I’ve hidden my other cats deeper indoors until I can rebuild their enclosure and fortify the panels. I will arm it with motion activated flashing lights, motion activated water sprayers, and the baleful predatory eyes of the Aspectek Predator Eye Nightime Solar Powered Animal Repeller which flash and play upon a predator’s deepest fears: that it has been spotted.

I learned of this latest statistic: According to a new report from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, mountain lions eat pets far more often than previously known. The report detailed that 107 mountain lions were killed last year under provisions of special depredation permits and the stomach contents of 83 were analyzed. Fifty-two percent were found to have eaten cats, dogs or other domestic animals. (Source: SF Gate)

I would have expected this kind of problem had I ever let my pets or children wander free. It’s even fine with me that the big cats invade my land at night, but it crosses the line when they break into a secure enclosure and kill what has been kept indoors for its safety.  I grieve for Mama Kitty, the only consolation being that she had a wonderful day with my friend and houseguest who loved and fussed over her with no idea of what was coming that night.


15 Replies to “Nothing Good Happens in the Woods”

  1. Love and love and love everything about this post (except for the event that prompted it). What a sweet tribute to Mama Kitty. She was indeed a sweet and beautiful creature. What a perfectly balanced exploration of the beauty and darker danger of the woods.

    1. Thanks. It is a huge comfort that Mama Kitty spent her last day being spoiled by her favorite auntie who brushed her and petted her and all her friends. It really doesn’t get better than that and thanks for the barrier you built. I was reminded of Les Miserables!

  2. It has been a heart-heavy weekend, and this was the post that brought all the tears forth. I’m sorry for Mama Kitty. What a beautiful creature she was. And I’m sorry for you, to not have those lovely eyes to look at anymore.

  3. I usually think of the woods as just woods, not thinking of all that goes on there. Sorry that you lost mama kitty when she thought she was safe. Keep strong and do what you can to keep your spectral cats safe.

  4. I’m sorry to read about poor Mama Kitty. How sad she was taken from what should have been a safe enclosure. I have a sister who lives ‘in the woods’ and there have been many wild animal sightings. As my brother-in-law says, “Well, they didn’t ask us to build our house on their land, did they?”

    1. Thanks. I suspect it happened fast, and in the meantime I am blistering my hands attaching thousands of long staples to new wirecloth, and I going to use hog fencing, and lights, and sirens, and even, disco music. Whatever it was had bette keep moving! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. So sorry about Mama Kitty. She was beautiful. We don’t have mountain lions here, but coyotes and I suspect they got one of my cats who got out of his pet taxi last summer as I was bringing him in the house. Never saw him again. Prefer to think he took up with someone else and has a good home, but I fear the worst.

    1. Thanks, Joan. I torn between understanding the needs of wildlife and irritation that it had to break into my enclosure (which is attached to my house/part of the house) but it is that time of year. Fortunately, when things go wrong, they tend to end quickly for lost pets. Thanks for reading and commenting. Good to see another fiction writer out there blogging.

  6. Awww what a sad story. I’m sorry for your loss. We have mountain lions in our area, too, but I’ve never seen them up close and personal except one time about 6 miles up the hill from us. It was sitting on the side of the road, ears perked just waiting like a statue. Glad I wasn’t out walking like I sometimes am up there.! It’s a good lesson to take care. We leave our cats outside, and they haven’t suffered any harm in 15 years. I hope they don’t get hungry.

    1. Of my eight cats, only one was caught and she was the one who was the princess. It seems plenty of street smart kitties survive just fine, just not mine. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      1. We started out with five strays when we moved here 15 years ago. Two are left, Momma and Scardy Baby Kitty. Don’t you love the original names?

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