Meandering Along the River’s Edge

~by Virginia Rhys-Anson

February 2017: Animals on My Bookcase

Nature’s creatures sit atop my bookcase shelves, replicas of wildlife brethren. From forest to savannah to air to fantasy’s realm, they pose in the foreground of a potpourri of books bringing conjured lives wild upon nature’s stage. Each hints of a tale frozen forever in a stance in time.

A writer’s muse takes instant wing. The drama that unfolded afore time’s freeze plays vibrant in mind’s theater. Each animal betrays a pondered figment wrapped in enchantment’s grasp.

Doe and Buck sauntered through the forest side-by-side, foraging beneath the snow for morsels of grass. The afternoon snow shower gradually intensified, threatening to erupt into blizzard strength. By midafternoon, it had, indeed, reached its goal more intensely than any seen in a score of years.

Grazing becoming ever more arduous, Doe and Buck inched slightly farther apart. The blizzard, having grown monumentally in a matter of minutes, created a veil between Doe and Buck, their sight of each other completely blocked.

Meandering further in opposing directions in their quest for a meal, they soon lost their connection one to the other. The blizzard continued for a half decade of hours, gradually waning toward evening. By this time, Doe and Buck had wondered miles apart.

Over the ensuing months, through winter, spring, summer, and into early autumn, the pair searched futilely throughout the forest for each other. Nearly mid fall, their wonderings brought them, once again, into their winter foraging grounds.

Amid a shower of golden leaves, Buck spied his Doe at mound’s crest. His low bellows summoned. Raising her head from her grazing, she met his gaze as he trotted up to meet her after ever so many lonely months. Face-to-face, they inched heads one toward the other and tenderly nuzzled noses, their affectionate pose held permanently as statuette on bookcase’s shelf.

When I bought her, I didn’t notice her broken tusk. Although I could have taken her back and exchanged her for a “perfect” specimen, I am so very glad I did not. It is a blessing that I didn’t notice her broken tusk right away, else I would have missed the love flowing from its absence.

Her disfigurement, her lost tusk, created a musing within me. What force snapped such a strong appendage nearly at its base? Likely, to my pondering, she parted with it defending her baby.

The savannah floor dusted the air as the herd trekked its eons of miles toward the sole water source. The fog of dust decreased the line of sight to inches. Mother and baby lost their bond with the herd. Now traveling solo, Baby hung close to Mother. He could easily become a meal for a pride of famished lions.

The annual drought set an opportunistic environ. Should Baby, accompanied only by its mother minus the herd’s protection, become separated from Mother, he would stand little chance of survival against a pride’s hunting lionesses.

Within the cover of the dust cloud, the pride’s hunters positioned and pursued, awaiting the appropriate moment to attack. Mother sensed their presence, keeping Baby close, nearly underneath her belly.

Though the pride knew better than to spar with a fully grown elephant, and a mother to boot, hunger spurred them to pursue against wisdom’s caution. Baby would feed the entire pride.

The lionesses trio stalked within striking distance of Baby. The dust fog lifting slightly, Mother could see their predators. Enticing Baby to cling to her side, Mother twirled to meet the first attacker, her tusk gashing the lion’s foreleg. Lioness backed off. Lioness two struck at Baby—unsuccessfully as Mother’s tree stump of a leg proved daunting to the attack.

The battle continued amid billows of dust. Baby remained near Mother’s side, an impossible target. While one lioness inched toward Baby, another, hoping to distract Mother, positioned for a frontal attack, giving Mother ample time to brace for her counter. Lioness charged, Mother bowed her head. Lioness jumped toward Mother’s trunk. Mother drew her head—and tusks—upwards. Her right tusk caught the lioness square in the chest, killing her instantly. The tusk broke off to near its base beneath the weight of the lioness. With the loss of their third, and one of the remaining duo injured, the lionesses ended their attack. Mother and Baby were now safe.

Eventually Mother—minus one tusk—and Baby caught up with the remainder of the herd about midday. To their benefit, the dust storm had slowed the entire herd. Now Mother and Baby sit safely on the shelf, Mother carrying the scar incurred in defense of Baby.

Giraffe and Zebra just called to me. They drew my imagination to a part of Earth that will always be foreign to me, but ever an intrigue—the African savannah.

The drought season offered challenges for Giraffe and the rest of the giraffe tower. The migration toward the community watering hole was long and arduous, plagued with predators hoping that the drought would weaken members of the tower and provide a needed meal.

Giraffe’s journey was no less burdensome than was that of Mother and Baby. With no rain to hold it down, the cloud of dirt kicked up behind those in front of Giraffe, every so often threatening her eyesight. A tornadic dust pillar skirted the edge of the tower of long-necked, elegant giants.

Near halfway along their path to water, lionesses from the same pride of lions that attacked elephant mother and baby stalked the tower, hoping for a young or injured giraffe to fall out of the group. But this was not the pride’s day, as the tower remained intact. However, it did keep the tower on alert.

Giraffe and her tower, as happens every year, eventually reached the pond, life giving water being their reward for such determined diligence. Her water needs filled, hunger tingled her stomach. Giraffe spent the morning munching on acacia tree leaves. At the apex of sun’s heat, she rested under Acacia’s shade.

Zebra traversed the same dusty savannah trail as did Giraffe and her tower. As did the tower, the zebra herd trudged uneventfully, with nary even a slight encounter with the pride. Quite dusty and parched at journey’s end, the herd guzzled water for seeming endless minutes. A subsequent cool bath erased drought’s artistry, refreshing Zebra and the herd. Mid-afternoon became a time for a much needed rest.

Zebra, for bewildering reasons, camps on a stack of books, perchance the self-proclaimed guardian of my library. I have no idea what predator he thinks would attack my books, maybe a book gnome or renegade book worm. Books are not exactly noted for running amok, although the stories within may. Books, thus, have no need to be corralled. However, it does appear that Zebra chose for himself a quite easy task.

Owl came to my bookcase inherited from my parents. Although modest, she is such a precious gift. Owl’s look is so intense, as if mid-flight in pursuit of prey. Her stare is fixed intently on her target, talons open, positioned to grasp.

Owl perched on barn roof’s peak, the dusk sun nearly set for the evening, night in close pursuit. Her eyes surveyed the prairie below for the slightest hint of movement, ears keen for the merest whisper of grass’s sway.

The prairie dog colony was settling in for the night, its scouts scurrying toward their burrows, the day’s surveillance ended. Oblivious of any potential danger, prairie dog bodies plopped head first into burrows’ holes.

Owl caught a hint of a brush with a blade of grass, her head rotating nearly back toward the sound. Eyes sharpened toward the sound, the unfortunate trailing scout she spied. Owl perched forward, wings stretching to full length. Stealth being her camouflage, she launched silently toward her prey. With precision speed, her talons locked around prairie dog’s chest a moment before it descended to the protection of its burrow.

Yes, I am part Celtic. And, yes, I do believe in unicorns and fairies. Perhaps some day I will be honored with an encounter.

Nairne and his fairy companion Furn rest upon the second shelf down on the bookcase, their ordeal ended. His story is not new to me, having become a phantasmal tale for children, a tale in which he nearly lost his life to Furn’s well intentioned scheme. In her quest to catch and befriend a unicorn, hoping to acquire unicorn magic, she unwittingly lead Nairne into a bed of quicksand. Nairne sank deeper and deeper to sure death.

Fate foiled Furn’s frantic efforts to free the unicorn. With all hope nearly gone, Furn willed her fairy magic—magic that she was still too young to control. Nairne sank deeper still, only his nose remaining visible.

Completely distraught at seeing her would-be companion sinking to assured death, Furn plopped to the ground sobbing, her back to the horrific scene that she could not bear to watch.  Sorrow and deep regret filled her soul, his safety now her only desire.

Love weaves a mysterious, unexpected web in a magical land. Amid sobs, Furn felt a nudge at her shoulder. Turning her head in nudge’s direction, her eyes met the forgiving gaze of Nairne. Unselfish love had saved the unicorn. Furn wrapped her arms around Nairne’s neck, never wishing to let go. Companions they remained forever more.

The wildlife on my bookcase. Much more than mere statues stilled in life poses. Each conjures a writer’s concocted tale. A tale woven in the caverns of fancy.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT MEANDERING ALONG THE RIVER’S EDGE ARCHIVE.

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