Jet lag and its best friend sleep deprivation finally moved out yesterday evening after 3 very long, peculiar nights, and I was happy to see them go. I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of rain on the deck and the quiet burbling of a table-top fountain. This small fountain is outside on a corner shelf of our metal deck cover; it runs throughout the year and creates a peacefully consistent background harmony to spring and summer birdsong, and autumn windstorms. This fountain has been in various places on the backyard deck for over ten years, and I miss it when I’m away from home. The bowl that holds the water is filled with small polished stones and crystals that my daughter collected over many years at visitor’s centers from various national parks. The stones have maintained their sheen over the years and make an interesting and colorful platform onto which water from the fountain falls. It’s a nice family heirloom; unusual I suppose, but appropriate for us.
Sleeping peacefully – no dreams that I remember – when I was awakened by an odd sound coming from the deck. This should be listened to, I thought. Something was disrupting the water flow from the fountain. Then it stopped. It started up again, and then sounded like the water shot onto the deck. Silence. Normal water flow, then a loud thump – that’s a rock hitting the deck, I thought. I also thought I just want to go back to sleep! Silence. Another thump. @#*$**%!!, I thought. More water shooting onto the deck. Ok, I thought. Someone is messing around with the fountain. My spouse, who can sleep through neighborhood explosions and earthquakes, made a muffled sound but didn’t wake. I got out of bed – at 4:21 a.m. – turned on the porch light, pulled back the shade, and looked towards the fountain.
There sat a little raccoon, playing with the water, pushing the rocks around and out of the bowl, and having the time of his little life. At 4:21 a.m. in the dark, early morning. Very early morning. I knocked on the window twice and he (or she) looked around with the perplexed, curious look that only babies can give, then resumed play. And there was no doubt in my mind that the little one was playing. One little paw was placed on the fountain to stop the water and water would shoot up and out of the fountain. Then it dug down into the bowl through the stones and a couple more landed on the deck. Oh cute, I thought. The little guy just discovered the universal game of ‘drop something from the highchair’. Then more water play. If a raccoon can look happy, this little critter did. This went on for fully 7 minutes, which I confirmed by my dependable clock and growing irritation. I wanted to go back to bed and debated opening the door to shoo it away but decided that where a baby raccoon plays, a mom is nearby. And Mrs. Mom Raccoon is more inclined to do me harm than I to the little one.
Well, as all babies do, this one soon lost interest in the fountain. It climbed down from the shelf and waddled away, mom following close by. Once they were safely out of the back yard, I opened the door, went outside, turned off the fountain, came back inside, and went back to bed. I tried to remain irritated but the whole incident was so funny that I fell back to sleep while laughing.
But, if it happens again tonight, someone’s going to need a time out.