Sunday, 30 September 2012

Ludicrousity (I know it's not a word but...)

In the midst of highways, condos, construction sites and two million Torontonians, wild animals survive. We see mallards, hawks, beavers and muskrats, opossums, foxes, coyote and deer. 
And then there are racoons. Thousands of racoons entertain city residents with their aerial acrobatics in neighborhood trees and cute troops of babies. 
Since I learned not to leave compost garbage out overnight, I have thoroughly enjoyed spotting them. I’m thankful that we don’t have to drive for two hours before we can enjoy nature.

But now…

We arrived home after a two week vacation to find racoon droppings spread over one quarter of our back lawn. After much unpleasant internet reading I can tell you that racoons typically designate “latrines”, family toilets that they and their relatives use every night. Some prefer rooftops, others, a crotch in a tree, many, a cosy corner on someone’s deck. Although we’ve seen racoons on our property for decades, they had never before situated a communal bathroom near us. Ugh!
My long-suffering husband dutifully shovelled up dozens of messes until the yard was poop-free. 
For one day. 
Back they came the next night.

If you ever want a laugh, read the internet suggestions for stopping this animal behaviour. The posts go like this:
One person declares, 
“What worked for us was _______”, describing a technique about which the next person writes,
 “We tried _______ but it didn’t work.” 

I started our own skirmish by sprinkling garlic powder, not because anyone had suggested it but because I had a stale bottle at hand and figured the smell would repel any animal. They have sensitive noses, don’t they? The next morning, when I walked out to the back with my coffee, the whole property stank of garlic and there was a new dropping right in the middle of the sprinkled area. 

Then we tried one of the internet recommendations, red chilli pepper flakes. We used a seed spreader to strew $12 worth of vicious smelling stuff over the lawn. With our usual smooth marital team work we managed to get pepper into my eye, but the area did now look a scary orange colour. That should do it. 

Apparently not.

The City of Toronto’s website advice was to cover the area with “pure soap flakes”. This also had been recommended elsewhere on the Web. What are those and where would one buy them? I asked for help on Facebook and got absolutely none from my knowledgeable FB Friends.  When we took our request to staff at hardware stores and grocery stores they stared silently at us with narrowed eyes before they muttered, “Sorry. Can’t help you.” and sidled away.
 One middle-aged Sobey’s manager said, 
“Soap flakes. Oh, I remember those. Hmm. I don’t think we carry them.” He came with us to search and we all agreed that it sounded like something that might have been used in the 50’s. There was no such thing on his shelves. We suspect now that some city employee had copied what they found in an ancient printed manual about deterring racoons and typed it into the current website, chuckling with the gleeful knowledge that NOTHING gets rid of a determined raccoon. We, however, were innocents as yet.

Soap? Alright, then. I didn’t like the “natural” but ineffective dishwasher detergent I was using so we sprinkled the rest of the box over the red grass. Next morning? More droppings. After a couple of days we noticed that the orange corner of the lawn was turning brown. Maybe our soap wasn’t pure enough.

My affection for wild life was starting to fade.

What about light? Would a bright light convince these furry, masked poopers to relieve themselves elsewhere? Our neighbour scoffed aloud at the mere idea. Nevertheless, my husband hung a spotlight focussed on the large patch of dead grass and left it on overnight. 
The next morning, victory! No droppings!
Alas, the second night, the racoon apparently decided that it didn’t mind spot-lit glory and there were new droppings. After she saw our latest attempt, our neighbour phoned to tell us that Nuit Blanche was not for another couple of days. Haw Haw. 
I started referring to our nightly backyard display as a son et lumiere.

The next thing I knew, my husband was rummaging through the Christmas lights. If a spot light had scared off the beast once, maybe more lights would up the ante. As darkness fell I looked out to see a cheery, celebratory display, with the white spotlight now joined by a string of blinking red, green, and blue bulbs. 
I glanced around for video cameras. We were becoming cartoon characters.

Another morning of celebration - No poop! 
But we were sceptical by now. What would the next night bring? No guarantees that the war had ended. Battle fatigue was creeping in. 
On a planet that holds starving children and heinous crimes, I’m embarrassed to make this confession. We sat during our morning prayer time counting our blessings and reminding each other that it could be worse. I’m serious. Listen to two ‘mature’ Christians trying for a godly perspective on the unspeakably trivial:
“At least we have a backyard. At least we’re well enough to shovel up the droppings. At least we don’t have little children who need to play on the lawn. At least…”
Pitiful. Just pitiful.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Just a Cold

How quickly illness can take us down. I’ve been sleeping around the clock for two days because of a cold bug.
You know what it’s like. You’re clicking along in the day’s schedule and gradually start to realize that your throat is kind of sore. After a couple of hours it’s hard to think anything except, “My throat hurts”. You feel shivery and then hot; the aches begin. Your deepest longing is to lay your head on your pillow and let the world disappear. Juice, kleenex, blankets, tea, antihistamine!

I wish I had the self-discipline of renowned atheist, the late Christopher Hitchens. His widow has released a book written while he was dying. I heard her tell a CBC radio interviewer that Hitchens “never complained”, neither when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, nor during his illness and deterioration.

Please do not tell my husband about this. 

If I can’t bear a common cold cheerfully and stoically, what hope do I have for courage when the real trials come? If Christian faith makes a difference, shouldn’t the believer’s behaviour trump the atheist’s?

HA! Think again.

Here’s the truth. I trust my life to Christ because I’m inconsistent, often weak, and downright selfish. Unlike Christopher Hitchens, I’m not tough and self-sufficient. As far as I can tell, Jesus came to offer us God’s loving acceptance and the chance to become better at being joyful, compassionate and principled, to find in God the very strength that we do not have.  

I’ll never be as good as you probably are, but I’m pretty sure I’m better than I would be if I didn't keep trying to rely on God.  I love reading the Bible biographies of characters who failed right, left and centre. These histories remind me that our Creator doesn't give up on wimps like me.