There was a mountain lion in our neighborhood a week ago, and apparently she was in heat.
Yeah, that’s a sentence I never dreamed I would type. But now that I live in Colorado, I find that many of my conversations involve animals I have, until recently, most often encountered on TV. We’re only 45 minutes east of Denver, out on the high prairie, surrounded by a subdivision that is, in turn, surrounded by rolling ranchland. To get to our neighborhood, one must drive through a prairie-dog town. (When I was a child and first learned of prairie-dog towns in Texas, where my family was from, I was disappointed to learn that prairie-dog towns were simply fields pocked with little hills of dirt surrounding their burrows. I had expected small prairie-dog-sized street signs, tiny shops, and—inexplicably—a miniature Ferris wheel. I’ve never quite recovered from the disappointment.)
Occasionally, an antelope wanders across the hill I can see from my back door. Sometimes, a whole herd of them graze their way past the prairie-dogs. Coyotes yip like a pack of giggling teenage girls all night. Deer nibble on bushes in front yards. My husband nearly hit a badger that was crossing the road one morning. (A badger? We have them here? Apparently so.) And the odd snake shows up in weird places, like in another neighbor’s kitchen sink with her dirty dishes. I don’t even want to think about how it got there. Nor about how she got rid of it. Something about a disposal. And screaming.
It’s not just the wildlife that’s interesting here. On the neighborhood social media app, I see posts for things like “Looking for a llama stud,” or “Join us for yoga with alpacas,” or “Can anyone recommend a mobile goat vet?” (Is that a vet for mobile goats? Asking for a friend.)
All of this makes it sound like we’re way out in the country somewhere. But we’re 45 minutes from Denver and only 20 minutes from the suburbs and all the usual fast-food and big-box stores. But it is just far enough away to change my daily routine from “A crazy driver ran the light in front of me today” to “A flock of wild turkeys ran across the road in front of me today.”
Live in a place long enough, and it’s easy to start believing that your own routine is everyone’s routine. That suburban life in Michigan, say, is exactly like suburban life in San Diego. That urban life in New York City is exactly like urban life in Phoenix. That rural life in Colorado is exactly like rural life in Georgia. Intellectually, of course, we know better. But that doesn’t mean we truly internalize that knowledge. So it’s healthy to let our routines get shaken up every now and then, I think.
I told a friend about our mountain lion. She said there was a housecat in her neighborhood who was also in heat and making a ruckus about it. Such different environments. Such different cat-lives. Yet the same nature is flooding both their veins.
We need to remember that there are more ways of living than the one we wake up to each day. But at the same time, our human reactions to all those ways of living are somehow universal. We are all so unique, yet so fundamentally the same.
Exploring how that can be true is one of the reasons we write.