1301 Lafayette Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802

10329 Illinois Rd, Fort Wayne, IN 46814

Phone: 260-627-YOGA (9642)


Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Raccoon Tale

The other night I awoke from sleep early in the morning.  I often wake in the stillness of the night and sometimes the mind wanders and worries.  Many teachers have taught me to use gratitude to harness the mind and steer it gently away from the cliffs of worry.  I stretched and began with gratitude toward the sun and the moon.   I like to begin at the edges of my boundaries and move to the center. Out of the corner of my eye I imagined a cat standing on the ceiling and smiled to myself, assuming I was entering the sweet semi-conscious dream state but the sounds were too synchronized, too real.  I turned to look again for the cat.  Gratitude banished as reality intruded, it was a raccoon tentatively hanging from the trap door of our attic in the hall outside our bedroom.
Propelled to action, I called out to my husband and shook his leg. “Steve!”
“What?” he responded gruffly, still asleep.
“There is a raccoon coming out of the attic.” I said tensely
“Okay” he said, as if it were the most natural occurrence.  He lumbered with sleepy limbs around the bed and we both stared at the raccoon.  He was hanging upside down with his head tilled upright, staring back at us.  His torso was pinched between the drop door and the ceiling.  Half in, half out, I marveled at fluid and sultry movements the upper body made as it spun around the waist, looking for an escape.
            Steve found his voice first and yelled, “Go on, get out of here.” I joined his choir too.  If he would just spin back into the attic, he could find his way back out. 
            The raccoon stopped spinning and looked, as if to say “I would, if I could, but I can’t.”  That was true.  The drop ceiling door was spring loaded and as soon as half the weight of the raccoon was down, the force of the spring began to pull the door shut.  Really, there was only one option and the raccoon took it.  He jumped with ease to the ground and jetted through to Heather’s, our daughter, open door across the hall.  Heather moved out a month ago so her room was unoccupied.  
Steve, thinking much faster than me, crossed the hall and shut the door.  We could hear the raccoon on the walls running the perimeter of the room.  I, having watched copious hours of Bug’s Bunny as a child, imagined him spinning tooth, claw, dust and stars like the Tasmanian devil.   We could hear the curtain rods crashing to the ground, books knocking to the floor and a lamp overturn as the raccoon circled again and again.  Steve looked at me and said “I will put on my cloths and get a blanket to throw over him and carry him outside.” 
I numbly looked at him and nodded my head.  What else was there to do?  I stood in the hall and listen to “the devil” as the sounds slowed down.  He must be realizing there was no other exit.  I could hear him scuffle in the direction of the door.  I watched nervously as I heard the approach and then, like the moment in Jurassic Park when the Velociraptor discovers the door knob, the door knob began to turn and the door to draw away from the hall.  I instinctively reached out and grabbed knob and pulled it tight. 
I yelled, “He is opening the door,” as Steve walked past me and downstairs. 
If he answered me, I did not hear.  My sole focus was on the rattling door.  I began to kick the door and yell, who knows what to scare the raccoon away.  His response was to back up and charge the door, slamming his whole body against the barricade.  He moved through a series of options searching for a way out; grabbing the handle, releasing the handle, shoving his two black fingered paws under the door and ramming his body against the door.    It seemed we were both using the same tactic; scare “the being” away from the door.  The more I up my thumping and yelling the more he upped his.  
This is how my youngest daughter found me, screaming and kicking the door.  She looked at me with the look I must give her, the “don’t you know what time it is and why aren’t you in bed” look.  I had a perfect excuse.  “A raccoon came out of the attic and ran in Heather’s room.”  I explained.
She looked at me as she was turning to go back into her room “I am out of here,” and shut the door.
I was left again battling the raccoon.  I could feel sweat begin to form a thin fine layer over my entire body, even my eyelids. My heart was trying to escape my chest.   A moment of recognition that the body was being ruled by the sympathetic nervous system, and somewhere in the back of my brain I knew that I would take at least 20 minutes to calm down, and maybe I wasn’t thinking too clearly.  At this point, I realized how stressed I was feeling and wondered what the hell I was doing.  I spend my days advocating ahimsa, non-violence, and here I am hurling insults and threats to a being a fraction of my size.  I began to see how quickly ethical precepts can dissolve in the face of confrontation.  Concurrently, I became aware that there must me another approach.
An idea came to mind.  One of my favorite chants is “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu,” which means “may all beings be happy and free.”   How could this situation give both of us happiness and freedom?  How could the raccoon be happy and free and my family and my home be safe?  Definitely not by kicking and screaming.  I stopped and began to sing the chant to the animal.  I think it must not be the raccoon’s favorite chant because it kept banging the door.  My voice was shaky and I was totally not committed to this plan as I hoped no one would hear me trying to serenade a raccoon.  The pause did work though on shifting my resolve and opened an opportunity to change tactics.
I looked across the hall to the night stand and saw my phone.  I thought “I will call the police.  Either they will come to help, or they summon an ambulance when the blanket over the raccoon plan meets jaws and claws.” Anxiety overtook me as I realized I would have to let go of the door knob to get the phone.    I would like to say I took a leap of faith and let go of the knob, but no, I kicked the door a couple of more times and said a couple of more things I probably shouldn’t repeat  and took a brief second to let go of the door and grab my phone, dialing 911. 
Her name was Amy; the calm assured voice on the Fort Wayne Police on the phone.  I told her the story thus far, except for the chanting to the raccoon part.  In her reasonable person voice, she said that because the raccoon was in a room behind a door, they would send animal care and control in the morning. 
I pleaded, “But its turning the door knob and trying to pull the door open.”   As if on cue, the raccoon rattled the door again and finding it still secure, in frustration rammed the door. 
“Oh!” says Amy.  I could here the empathy in her voice as she realized the plight.  “I will contact Animal Control.  I have to put you on hold.”
Now, Steve comes back up the stairs with a blanket.  I told him what Amy said and told him I didn’t think that I would be a good idea to go through with the blanket plan.  Then through grace came another plan. If we, meaning him of course, put a ladder against house, climbed up, opened the window, the raccoon would have a place to peacefully exit because it desperately wanted out.
“So,” he said.  “You want it more at my face.”   
“I hadn’t thought of that.” I replied, thinking.  “I can keep him distracted at the door, while you open the window and crawl down real fast. “  We went on with the conversation like this for several minutes.  Then Steve agreed to try it.  Dropping the blanket beside me, he went to fetch the ladder. 
Amy came back on the line and I told her what we were going to do.  With a voice full of concern she told me to call her back to let her know if we still needed Animal Care and Control.  I waited by the door anxious now for “the plan.”    I could hear something happening against the house and so could the raccoon.  His scraping against the door stopped.  I now pleaded with him to come back, fearful that he would be faster than Steve.  Then silence the kind of silence where the ears and mind extend to interpret any sound. Within a short time my ears were rewarded with the sound of foot steps on the stairs as Steve came back up to stand with me beside the silent door.  He said the raccoon came to the window as soon as he tapped.  I thought how brave of him to tap.  I would have scurried up the ladder, opened the window a couple of inches and scurried back down. 
Cautiously, we opened the door and looked around furniture and in the closet.  The raccoon had definitely taken the opportunity to leave.  In his wake was turmoil.  The turmoil one leaves when fighting to be free from entrapment.  Evidence of his fear and anger spilled around the room. The curtains were pulled from the rods, sheets from the bed and we could clearly mark out his path as feces and urine ringed the room over book case and cabinets.  This was a scared and trapped being and had done what a trapped animal needs to do to find safety.  Finally, the gratitude list began again in my head.  So grateful within a pause another idea took hold, one that gave us what we both wanted.  So grateful he fled to an empty bedroom.  So grateful he did not run downstairs with the dogs.
The Native Americans honor the wisdom of each animal.  As this is my third encounter with raccoons in my home over the past twenty years, okay twenty-five years, I though it might be wise to understand the significance of this encounter.  The raccoon is a mask wearing curious night traveler, symbolizing the ability to adapt to its environment in secrecy.  As I brought the cleaning supplies up to straighten and disinfect the room, my memory shifted back to the last time I cleaned this room.   Heather left right before her 18thbirthday after we found four empty bottles of alcohol in her room.  The uncovering of the alcohol was the uncovering of her separate life.  The one she kept secrete.  As I cleaned again, an image of me pounding on the door and yelling reemerged.  Had she too felt like a trapped animal wanting a different life and freedom?  For the first time since she left, I was grateful that she was not here in this room, that she is exploring her masks and finding her own path. This short episode with the raccoon opened the door to look at her departure in another way; one where all of us have the opportunity to explore with curiosity our own path, make mistakes and grow in grace.
I am grateful for so many blessings.  Yoga and meditation are unfolding the tools to diffuse the anger and fear.   Recently Marsha Pappas was at Pranayoga for a stress reduction workshop.  Both my daughters and I attended together.  One of the many things she said was “The obstacles are not in the way, the obstacles are the way.”  She was quoting from another, but I do not remember the name of that sage.  “The obstacles are the way” really resonates with me.  Once I shift my perspective and see that the obstacle in front of me is my kind teacher encouraging me to remove a veil of Avidyā, or ignorance, suffering diminishes and connection to others and the universe appears.   I am so very grateful to my kind teacher, the raccoon, who removed a veil when removing my curtains. 
      Namaste My Kind Teacher

About the Writer: Jenny Yoga
Jenny started yoga for her daughter in 2010 but stayed for herself. This is when powerful healing began to transform her body, mind, and spirit, not necessarily in that order. Through a regular asana and sitting practice, studying with phenomenal teachers and soaking in the love of the beautiful yoga community, she has begun to discover a quieter mind. She became RYT 200 certified through Prana School of Yoga and Health in 2012 to deepen her own practice and to share the gift of yoga with others. As a teacher, she sees each student as beautiful. She strives to create a supportive environment in which each student can safely experiment in uncovering the beauty and joy that reside within the heart of each of us.
Teaching: Yoga Basics, Restorative Yoga, Meditation 101 Workshops, All Levels Yoga

No comments:

Post a Comment