Night Rider

We are less than one month away from the shortest day of the year. This means, it’s light outside for nearly the exact duration most of us are stuck inside an office somewhere unreachable by direct sunlight. I’m heavily affected by the whims of the sun and winter in the upper Midwest means long stretches of its absence. Rather than getting SAD or lazy (which is my first inclination), I force myself to get creative.

It’s very easy to forget there’s a world out there when all you see is darkness. The air is harsh and inhospitable to exposed skin. And everyone around you is rushing to get into a temperature-controlled environment. Being able to continue my outdoor sports-like activities makes me feel like I’m cheating the system.

Coaxing myself outside is often the hardest part. Dressing in layers suitable for a range of temperatures is a honed skill that I’m hesitant to say I’ve mastered, but one I’m pretty darn good at. Plus, given the option of taking my bike to work and getting a little chilled and taking the bus to work and getting very motion sick – the bike wins every time.

Plus, there’s an added bonus that I don’t openly talk about because admittedly, it sounds a little creepy. One of my favorite things about early nightfall is getting to look inside people’s homes.

Let’s be clear, I will not stand directly outside of your window and stare at your family inside. I’m simply interested in the architectural details. I’m also really into big bookshelves and unique light fixtures. Consider it a compliment for your good taste, rather than an invasion of your privacy.

Once a week or so, I like to bike the long way home from work down the West River Parkway. Lately, this stretch of big, old homes has one thing in common: a stay-at-home someone who turns the lights on before I ride by. It’s a bit tricky keeping one eye on the houses across the street and one eye on the bike path ahead, but traffic has been light, so it’s manageable.

This is exactly what I was doing a few nights ago on an unseasonably warm day for November. It was a beautiful night – the temperature hovered around 50 degrees well after sunset. The sky overhead was matte black dotted with a few robust stars that managed to poke through the dense layer of light pollution. And all of the lights were on inside the houses along the parkway.

I was busy eyeing a particularly interesting staircase when an unusual form materialized on the path ahead. At first, it looked like a discarded box. As I got closer, it looked like a small dog or a large cat.

Turns out, it was a huge raccoon who was clearly content to be sitting in the middle of the lightly traveled trail. As I approached, he casually sauntered over to the grass and sat down to watch me pass. I was surprised to witness such a brazen act from a skittish creature that normally prefers to anonymously scavenge through garbage cans rather than interact with the person filling them.

I stopped to get a better look and the raccoon did not budge. Eventually, I was the first to make a move, rolling away slowly. I was slightly weirded out by this encounter, but I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t understand the behavior.

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  1. Glad it wasn’t a skunk!😉
    Enjoyed reading this.

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