Making Friends in the Dark

So.  I was bundled up in my cozy little tent, cocooned in my sleeping bag, j-u-s-t starting to drift off to sleep, when I was startled awake by footsteps.  Footsteps striding purposefully towards my tiny tent.  The footsteps stopped, and then there was….sniffing.  Four quick sniffs and one long one, as in, sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-ssnniiiiiiffff.  

At that moment my camping fears, which I had totally forgotten after a few nights in my tent, returned.  They returned and became very, very specific instead of the vague “wow-it-is-dark-here” fears with which I started the week.

Dark creature of the night was sniffing at my tent, when my Iphone went off and alerted me to a text message, which scared the hell out of me since I was trying not to breathe lest sniffing creature figured out there really was something tasty in the tent.  “Gaaa!” I said, and wiggled one hand free from the sleeping bag and pulled my phone inside.  And then pulled the sleeping bag entirely over my head.  It was Julia and Audrey, texting to chat about everyone’s day.

“SOMETHING IS SNIFFING AT MY TENT AND I HOPE IT IS A DOG,” I informed them, and I don’t think I included enough swear words to impart the full terror of the situation. I could almost hear snickering from the other two Iphones.  They assumed my tent smelled pretty good, since I had previously bragged about my campfire cooking skills.  Julia told me I should be friendly and sniff right back.  “NOT HELPING JULIA” I sent back.  She wished me a pleasant evening and told me she hoped my tent remained a single all evening.

The thing is, in all of the texting back and forth, I didn’t hear whatever was doing the sniffing actually leave.  It probably did.  But I didn’t hear it. It was a bit of a restless night after that.  After I got done marveling that I could send and receive text messages in the deep dark Maine woods in the middle of the night, and giving sincere, sincere thanks for that, I have done some reflecting about being afraid in the woods.  That first night I was straight-up afraid, yes; but then I realized, we are supposed to be afraid in the woods at night. It is a survival mechanism.  Our awareness is heightened. That’s doubly true when there’s a gathering storm; all the other tiny woodland creatures were nesting, and sheltering, and burrowing too, as those winds picked up.  It’s fear that keeps us safe, in a situation like that.  (Fear might also have led me to a wise decision of riding out a storm in a hotel room, but I wasn’t going to admit defeat on night one.  I’m stubborn that way.)  The hardest part is separating that kind of fear, the good kind, from the kind we superimpose upon the situation.  The “what-ifs,” and the “I-should-haves,” and fact that I watched the first five minutes of Game of Thrones a couple of weeks ago and had to turn it off after that horrific scene in the woods, and what the hell was I thinking?

As for the sniffing creature, well, sound carries pretty well out here in the woods, and there is a path not too far from my tent which connects all the campsites.  The logical part of me, that part which is not artistic and dramatic and overly imaginative, is willing to allow that there might have been a person on the path (hence the footsteps) walking their dog (hence the sniffing.)  I will also allow that this story begins with me drifting off to sleep; there is the possibility that I dreamed this whole thing.  I don’t think so. But it’s possible.  And so, friends, I’ll allow for the possibility that it was not necessarily Sasquatch striding directly to my tent and then sniffing purposefully around it.

It might have been a werewolf, though.

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