Craig Childs - House of Rain
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Field Notebook

July 17, 2009
A brush with a fearsome creature...

I was coming out of the Ramble in Central Park after dusk, a place where I had been able to find at least some semblance of wild in New York (subject of an update soon to come). There, a raccoon and I found ourselves walking the same direction. As with most animals, you glance their way, give them the berth you would any other person, and suddenly you seem to understand each other. Curious how that works.

Raccoons own Central Park by night. They come out frisking and snapping, parading around the rims of garbage cans, rolling in the grass like rugby players. It is such a pleasure to see another species using this city as a native landscape.

The raccoon and I ambled to a bridge and as we crossed, a woman ahead of us actually climbed the railing in fear. What did she think would happen, what primal terror was in her mind? Other humans are bad enough, but animals, creatures who do not speak English, whom you cannot reason with, seem to be complete unknowns. She kept looking into the pond below as if she might jump. How soft and strange we've become, I thought. How far we have come from being the animals that we are, with our teeth and hair.

As the raccoon and I passed her, I looked into the woman's darting eyes, then gestured to the pond.

"Be careful," I said quietly. "There are fish down there."

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