Call of the wild, Thornhill style

Columnist Claudette Sandecki finds inspiration in an unexpected place.

Both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron, instructors known for encouraging writers to put words on paper rather than talk about doing so, suggest varying the pattern of a typical day to foster inspiration.

And they are so right.

This morning, after waking without a column topic, instead of walking my dogs in the afternoon or evening as I normally would, to fit an hour of exercise into today’s scheduled appointments we headed out at 9 a.m.

What a different world so early! Five minutes into our walk I knew I’d found a column topic.

Where I unleashed my dogs, at my feet lay two mint candies in perfect condition in their distinctive foil wrapper, enticing to any youngster. I heaved both mints into the bush beyond temptation. My big dog, with the nose of a bloodhound, promptly found both, whether by tracking the odour of peppermint or my hand.

We proceeded along the up and down trail and shortly afterward a young woman with a yearling German Shepherd on a leash crested the hill.

We had met once before, recently. She had said her dog was only partially trained but it behaved well. She pulled it off to the side of the trail while we passed by.

We turned south following a ridge before making a right angle turn east. That’s when I heard a sound I couldn’t identify. Rather like the distressed chirp of a giant bird.

My bloodhound homed in on the origin of the sound and began circling and barking. At what? I couldn’t see anything as I moved toward the sound until a gangly-legged moose calf materialized from behind a clump of trees and stumbled toward my dog, all the while bleating the unusual staccato sound.

Now I grew up on open prairie where I never saw a moose, a deer, a lynx, a wolf, or even a raccoon. Today those animals are prevalent in many parts of Saskatchewan.

Moose and deer stroll past my sister’s kitchen window almost daily, sometimes a lone animal, sometimes a mom and a calf, sometimes a family with aunties.

Foxes den in her backyard; the kits venture out for food set out by her granddaughter. The Saskatchewan river glides by within a mile of her home.

Closer to Regina, my brother battles skunks, badgers, and raccoons, all of whom invade his orchard and steal cat food; I’ve never seen a live raccoon except perhaps in the Bronx Zoo.

I was delighted by the sighting of the moose calf and admired its agility passing over blown down trees and criss-crossed dead branches.

The calf and my dog worked their way back along the trail, bleating and barking, one leading, one following, then reversing positions.

The calf was no doubt hoping we were delivering its mid-morning snack. All the while I scanned the trees for Mom. I had no wish to make her acquaintance.

Evidence of moose, deer and bear is common along crown land trails. Might Mom be nearby, returning from the Skeena river or Copper mountain?

I kept sweeping the trees 360 degrees like an owl just in case Mom arrived agitated. I know I couldn’t outrun or outwit her.

As we exited the bush we met a woman approaching on the gravel road with two golden Labs on leashes and a chatty four-year-old walking beside her.

I thought of calling out, “There’s a moose calf in the bush ahead!” but reasoned the child’s piping voice would warn the cow moose to remain in the bush out of sight.

With luck, the calf would silently stay put avoiding all traffic until Mom returned.

Claudette Sandecki explores the world from her home in Thornhill, B.C.

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