On my walk this evening, far out in the country, I came across a sight I was probably not meant to see: a congress of cats gathered in the road. Three of them sat upright, far enough away that I first mistook them for turkeys. A fourth stood poised in midstride, the same color and nearly the same size as a fox. A fifth remained still as a Sphinx, nearly invisible in a stand of Princess Ann’s lace along the far edge of the road.
One by one, the cats in the road slipped off to the sides, then the fox-cat bolted straight across at the Sphinx, and together the two darted up the lawn of a house tucked into the woods.
Nearby, a yellow sign tacked to a tree said, “Bear Crossing.” Perhaps it was exaggerating on the cats’ behalf, or perhaps ursines really do cross there and the cats were waiting to catch a glimpse. Farther down the road, I saw well-worn game trails that led out of the woods to the road, and I imagined the rattle of spent raindrops dripping their way from the forest canopy to the forest floor as the sound of something big and black pushing through the underbrush.
As my walk took me deeper into this crepuscular hour, the sky watercolored orange and rose and, later, violet. Rain from the afternoon’s thundershower evaporated from the road into fog that began to fill the hollows and shroud the rounded tops of hills.
Two does and three fawns watched me watch them. Perhaps “five” was the number nature chose to track my passage tonight.
The sound of crickets in the long grasses jumped in pockets across the fields and ricocheted back and forth across the road. As I walked past a barn flanked by wrangley sumacs, the sound of wood frogs swelled in prominence, then faded behind me as I passed. Night birds whose calls I couldn’t identify sang to each other, sounding pleased that evening was giving way to darkness.
A meadow frog little bigger than my thumb, his head and body shaped like an arrowhead, sat in the middle of the road. I tried to nudge him from the pavement, but he remained tightly coiled. I waited for him to spring, but he didn’t. Finally, I picked him up and moved him to the gravel berm. “I don’t want to run you over with the car when I come back through,” I told him. My daughter flashed to mind, how in her childhood she wanted to grow up to be a “toad doctor” to save little critters like this one.
There was water pushing down the Brook, and fog haunted a stand of trees along the streambank. It’s been so rainless, so dry. The afternoon shower had brought back some life.
The Sphinx cat watched me walk back.