Autumn began, and the weather was pleasant, and I had all the windows open tonight. While I was in the back of the house, I heard something crashing around in the side yard.
This is not unusual. There are cats and opossums and raccoons that meander about at night, along with the occasional bobcat or coyote. The daughter frequently complains that she hears something lumbering around, and the sideyard is particularly noisy because there are so many dead leaves and seed pods on the ground.
So I heard the crashing under the windows and didn't think much about it, wondering if Olivier hadn't yet been put in for the night. He got his head chomped by a coyote a year or so ago, so his people are pretty vigilant about locking him up after dark.
It was the little vocalization that made me look up. A soft sort of whuffling, a combination sniffle and snort.
I stopped what I was doing and listened. It was not the next door neighbor's dog.
And again. Whuffle, snort, sigh. Nothing particularly aggressive about; it was actually a rather satisfied noise.
Naturally, the sideyard is the darkest part of the entire lot, so I grabbed my very large and very heavy maglite, and went out into the garden. Dried berries from the ficus were plinking down onto the dead leaves in that vicinity, but there was otherwise no sound. I switched on the maglite and walked quietly toward the side of the house, shining the bright beam along margins and behind plants, expecting the glow of eyes at any moment.
I stopped and listened carefully.
I ventured further into the sideyard, moving slowly because I didn't want to startle something that might be lurking behind the air-conditioning unit or a shrub. I've had huge, fully grown raccoons rear up on their hind legs in a very threatening fashion when I had cause to pass by them on the studio lot, and the last thing I wanted to do was corner a frightened animal in the dark.
There was a patter of berries behind me and I startled, jerking in surprise at the sound, and swung my flashlight around.
I started back toward the french doors where I'd exited, when I heard the excited and angry chatter of a bird in another yard, fairly distant from where I was standing. It sounded very much like a bird that's been startled awake by a predator, and I decided that whatever I'd heard snuffling about had already wandered off in search of more interesting entertainment.
At that moment, a rain of dried berries showered down around me, and I paused to consider the fact that my garden is filled by any number of very large trees, and that presently, I was standing under one of them. Irresistibly, I thought of heffalumps and woozles and most particularly, jagulars that drop on unsuspecting heads.
I didn't exactly flee, but I removed myself rapidly to the house.
Go listen to some good music: "Wild Wild Life" from the album Best of Talking Heads by Talking Heads. Heffalumps, woozles and jagulars are, of course, the invention of A.A. Milne, creator of the Winnie-the-Pooh stores.