"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.
And we currently find ourselves surrounded by spiders and bats and bears (oh, my)! We have had a bear tear apart our trash bin, a bat flying figure-eights around our living room, and a plethora of spidery visitors… and that’s just in the past couple of weeks. New England living is not for the faint of heart!
Living deep in the woods on the shores of a lake is pretty much my idea of heaven. We’ve said for years that we often find ourselves thinking, “I can’t believe I live here”, every time we drive into the driveway. Of course, we are heading out far less often right now because of Covid, and therefore driving into the driveway less often, but those thoughts do not seem to have dwindled in the least. We are so grateful to live here, and most of the time we don’t even mind sharing it with the critters... although we try to draw the line at actually having them join us in the house!
We have always had spiders at the cottage. I remember them from my childhood, and we have seen some monsters here in our time. It’s just part of life here in “The House in the Rocks”. The dock spiders here can be epic in both their size and their demeanor; I once encountered one so large climbing up over the edge of the dock as I sat reading in my folding chair that I reacted the way one might if one was trying to scare away a small animal: I hissed at it. It raised its front legs and continued its travels across the dock toward me, clearly unimpressed, so I simply packed up my book and chair and surrendered the territory to it. One picks one’s battles.
We spied one so large on the edge of the mantel one evening that when I suggested that I get Mike the “spider cup”— we generally liberate them to the great outdoors rather than killing them— he responded by saying, “No, get a shoe. If we lose this one, we’ll have to move. Or burn the place down. Or both.” That behemoth met its maker that night, I do not regret to inform you. I feel badly, yes, but I do not regret it.
And then there have been the flying critters. I remember bats that hid themselves in the shades of standing lamps during the winter, which Grandpa then had to liberate come spring, and I also remember lying in bed one night asking Mike if there had always been a knot in one particular section of the knotty pine ceiling, to which he replied, “Nope. That’s not a knot. That’s a bat”. Over the years we’ve had both bats and flying squirrels, and Mike has become rather adept at wrangling both.
Flying squirrels, like mice (we’ve had our share of those, too, by the way) must be caught— sometimes right out of the jaws of the cat— and taken at least a mile away to avoid their return, often via a moonlit drive in pajamas and, in rare cases, bare feet. Go ahead, ask Mike about that the next time you speak to him!
Bats, on the other hand, are fragile creatures that must be gently corralled toward an open door— after securing said cat in an enclosed room to avoid his escape— until their sonar finally convinces them to take the opportunity for freedom that has been presented and fly off into the night. The most recent bat episode occurred just as we were getting ready for bed that night, and lasted until 12:30 am. By the time the bat had finally flown out the wide open kitchen door, it had already flown seemingly endless circles around the living room, crawled down behind the wood bin to rest multiple times only to come back out and fly figure-eights straight toward Mike’s face regardless of whether he tried to “go low” to avoid it, and caused no small amount of girly screaming. (Hint: The screams were not emanating from me, as I was locked in the enclosed bedroom with Rosco.) Poor Mike is a trooper, though, despite the fact that the thing launched itself toward the wide open kitchen door three times only to pull up at the last minute every single time, before finally succeeding on its fourth attempt.
And then, there was the bear (oh, my). Years ago, Mike built a “bear-resistant” solid wood trash bin to deter our ursine visitors, and so far it had succeeded quite nobly in its cause. It had sustained an attack a few years ago in which the bear managed to drag the bin all the way out into the middle of our driveway and turn it completely upside-down, but the trash remained safely inside. Apparently the bears have been working out recently, because this time it had been dragged and tipped over, but the end had also been ripped open like the end of a candy wrapper, exposing all the delicious goodies inside. Honestly, those pine boards had been shredded as if they were cardboard!
We’ve seen so much amazing wildlife here over the years.There are the ever-present loons, of course, who announce their return from the ocean waters each spring with the return of their melancholic cries, and who carry their babies upon their backs until they are no longer little fluffy corks that cannot dive because they are simply too light to stay down. There are chipmunks and squirrels and various varieties of woodpeckers. We watch dragonflies emerge from their larval cases and dry their newly formed wings in the sun at the beach, and we see the evidence of deer in the nibbled leaves of our hostas.
In recent years, we have seen a bald eagle soaring overhead, and sometimes perched in the tallest pine tree along our shoreline. And in a beautiful and synchronous twist of fate, just as I was writing this post I heard Mike holler to me to come upstairs to witness not one, but two bald eagles perched side by side one of its highest branches.
We have a nesting pair of phoebes who set up shop under the dormer eaves each spring, and we are treated each year to the incessant and adorable “cheep-cheep-cheep” of their babies in the nest just outside the window, and the swooping, wobbly comedy of errors that inevitably ensues when the little ones attempt to learn to fly. One summer we even had a family of foxes— a mama and her five kits— living in a den between the rocks on the edge of our patio, and we spent hours watching the kits lounging in the sun or tumbling and playing on the patio, fighting over one particular pine cone… even thought there were hundreds of others available. We laughed as they tried to squish themselves into— or knock their siblings out of— a cement planter that was apparently a highly-coveted napping spot. (They only ever succeeded in getting three out of four legs to stay in at any given time!)
How can one not feel blessed to be surrounded by such beauty and joy? I am reminded of my grandfather’s lessons every day in this place, and his reminders of what was behind all of that beauty. I do not consider myself a religious person, exactly, but I can appreciate his belief that one can see God— or whatever word one wishes to use for “All-That-Is”— simply by looking at the natural world that is all around us.
As a girl, I would sometimes sing this little prayer if Grandpa called on me to say grace as the family sat down to dinner around the table on the porch of this very cottage in which Michael and I now reside: “Back of the bread is the flour, and back of the flour is the mill, and back of the mill is the sun and the rain and the Father’s will.” Whoever or whatever is indeed behind it all, I’d just like to thank you… and say, “I can’t believe I live here”.