I grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. My dad read it to me when I was six, and I re-read it many, many times after that.
The impression I received from that work is that Men, humans that is, are clumsy, noisy creatures who stalk about the wilderness making a huge racket and every animal and elf can hear them coming for miles away. ZOMG we r not 1 wit teh Nature!!! I used to practice moving as silently as I could through the woods, so as not to be one of those awful, unmindful humans (this was before I learned that moving noisily is a good thing, letting snakes know to get out of your way). Such a contrast to those noble, quiet woodland creatures! They live so in harmony with their environment that they almost ne'er make a telltale sound to give their presence away!
Now that I am grown and have had many chances to observe animal behavior, I would like to call bullshit on that premise.
I have a poorly-sealed window in my bedroom.
From this window, I hear the little woodland creatures, going about their natural, morning things, one with Nature in every respect, living in harmony with their environment... AND MAKING A GODAWFUL RACKET!!!!!! O! M! G!!! I will hear the most HORRENDOUS RUSTLING in the bushes and think a PACK OF URBAN COYOTES must be trying to get into our trash cans!!! I flip up the curtain, only to see two teeny freakin' Carolina wrens hopping about. Yelling at each other. I cannot type their call. But I will try: MREEEEEECHHHHHHHHHHH MREEEEEEEEEECHHHHHHHH MREEEEEEEEEEEEECHHHHHHH is an approximation of the noise that greets me.
And the birds are not the worst offenders in the Lack O' Stealth department. Oh no.
That honor goes to... the squirrels.
Let me paraphrase Mark Twain and say that two squirrels amount to a permanent riot, and there ain't any real difference between three squirrels and an insurrection. They like to play on my roof. I say "play," but the fact is, I have NO IDEA WHAT they're doing up there. Playing squirrel rugby? Staging squirrel Civil War reinactments? Fighting for the rights of albino squirrels to get married? 'Cause if they're up there just hopping around from place to place, and managing to make THAT MUCH racket in the process, then these particular woodland creatures need remedial woodland creature lessons!
It's not the noise I mind, it's the not knowing what they're up to. In fact, it drives me to irrational acts in my own house. We have at least one mouse at the moment, and sometimes I think it is using construction equipment. When the noise gets to be just TOO MUCH, I feel dissed! It's like the mouse has NO RESPECT for the fact that I could eat him! "HEY! I am bigger than you!!! At least PRETEND to be scared of me!" Or, every now and then, I will just burst into the room whence the noise emanates and yell, "What ARE you DOING in there???" As if I expect an answer. I just want to SEE the construction equipment, that's all!
Now, I must state for the record that all our good foodstuffs are put away out of the reach of rodents, sealed in airtight ceramic or glass containers, or refrigerated-- all except for the junk food. Normally, after a bout of extreme noise, I will discover in the pantry that a tin of cocoa has been chewed through-- a little mouse-head-sized hole in the plastic top. One day I came in to find an ENTIRE BAG of chocolate-covered espresso beans emptied out. I had to dump the Halloween candy that had been stored in the pantry, because mice had found their way into the jack-o'-lantern and eaten an entire candy necklace, leaving the chewed-up bag behind. Those mice are NOT eating right, 's all I gotta say.
Perhaps I'm being unfair to the creatures of a true woodland. These birds and squirrels and mice I have the opportunity to observe close at hand have adapted to an urban environment where their only natural predators are house cats. If so, I'd say the cats have the advantage. Cats, at least, know how to be quiet!
Nowadays, when I read about those silent-footed Hobbits stealing through the woods without a rustle, I think, "OF COURSE they're quiet! All they have to do is be less LOUD than the other animals!!!"
Memorial Day redux
11 months ago