We’d just turned off our reading lights and were settling in, just closing our eyes for the night, when something climbed the rose canes on the other side of the south window. Raccoons, said John, sleepily. I got up and turned on the deck light and a large raccoon scrambled up the railings to the shed roof of the first storey of the house. Oh goodnight, I said, and got into bed. But what was that, right by the west-facing windows over our pillows? I shone a flashlight out and two raccoons came right up to peer in at a woman in a white cotton nightdress, her flashlight in one hand, the edge of the comforter in the other. They reached their forepaws, delicate as hands, to touch the window.
Going out to bring in firewood, I heard loud drumming coming from the fir tree right by the porch where the woodbox is. And there, a foot from the ground, a pileated woodpecker working its way around the trunk. Not the spring drumming on hollow trees for love, not the urgent territorial thundering on the power pole by the garden, but a steady beat, steady, steady, as it reached into the bark where some of the new termites from a hatch we watched rise out of the ground nearby, a low grey cloud of insects, where some of them must have settled in the wood.
I used to watch for them but now they watch for me. Morning, noon, and evening. As I was making coffee first thing, one of them was waiting, peering in anxiously, head cocked. It used its strong beak to knock on the railing in case I didn’t know why it was there. And I put out a handful of black sunflower seeds from last year’s sack. When I came to make a fire before lunch because I was still chilly after my swim, one was on the post closest to the kitchen. Are you the same one, I asked, but it only muttered and rode the railing like a dude on a surfboard. Yesterday 4 arrived at the same time, shouting at the tops of their voices, beaks open, crests askew, shoving each other off the posts. The same ones? Maybe I feed one 3 times a day, or several once a day, and occasionally all of them at once.
The bathroom window was open and I heard them, clear as anything. Were they snow geese or Canada geese or cackling geese? When I went out to try to see the scribble of them against the mountain, they were already gone.