On a Drive at Dusk

Happy November, dear readers! I hope your Halloween celebrations brought you ghoulish fun! Now that we have entered the month dedicated to gratitude (although I absolutely advise that we all count at least five things to be thankful for each and every day), I would like to embrace the spirit of thankfulness and share with you all a moment – a marvelous memory – I will forever be grateful to have been given.

I love Idaho summer evenings. I love watching the sun set over the mountains, and the way the air feels just as day gives way to night. Yes, sunrises bring the world to life, but everything comes alive in a different way at sundown.

It was on one of my drives at dusk that I noticed something up ahead in the road. There were two dark, somewhat small shapes, seemingly about the size of raccoons, crossing the pavement. Naturally, I began to slow my car, and watched as they hurried along and reached the other side. I pulled up beside the little figures as they scurried up the steep slope, scaling rocks quickly but with a slight waddle. They had thick tails and no shortage of fur. I squinted in the fading light, having trouble identifying them at first. It wasn’t until they paused in their hurry, and turned around to peer at me with beautiful “painted” faces, that I fully realized what animals I had stumbled upon.

There, beside me, were a mother badger and her youngster. They hissed, fussing at me for intruding on their evening, and I giggled while I scrambled to reach for my camera while simultaneously pulling my car to the side of the road (mind you, it’s a very lonely road that isn’t frequented other than by locals). As I fumbled with my lenses, switching one out for another, the mother continued along her way while the young badger decided to puff out his coat, back himself into a divot on the hillside, and continue hissing at my vehicle. I knew he was trying to be intimidating, but I saw it as adorable.

Meanwhile, he didn’t notice his mother had left him behind, nor had she detected that he was no longer following closely behind her. She turned her head, noted his absence, and started back toward him – toward me – while also beginning to talk… I have no other word for the way she fussed at her baby, communicating with him in a language unknown to me, seeming to scold him for not following her lead during a situation she perceived as dangerous. Again, I couldn’t hold back my laughter. I kept snapping photos (although many turned out blurry due to the oncoming darkness) as she approached him and he glanced back at her, fur deflating apologetically. He crouched, as though he knew he was in trouble. She reached him and proceeded to halt her fussing so she could grasp him with her mouth by the scruff of his neck and carry him away – up the hillside and over the ridge.

Altogether, the event probably took a total of three minutes from start to finish. But those three minutes will forever remain with me. I found such joy in being given an inside glance at the special relationship between this mother badger and her baby. I loved the dynamics – the way he tried to be threatening initially (as he learns how to be a badger and defend himself), the way his mother fussed at him when she noticed he was no longer following behind her, and the way he ceased the attempt at intimidation and simply became her youngster again as she fussed and tenderly carried him away to safety. More than anything, I loved how the interaction reflected something so human. I was then, and still am, extremely aware that this experience, this moment in time (however big or small), was a treasure. I love nature for the way it holds a mirror to our species, revealing we are not as different as we like to believe.

I am thankful for Idaho summer evenings, when everything – including myself – feels alive. I am thankful for three minutes I spent in the presence of two adorable badgers. And I am thankful for the laughter the moment brought to my lips and the love it brought to my heart.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

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