A Raccoon Saga
Fear and Loving in Noho
While you were gone…
I left Los Angeles and took an 8 month contract living and working on a cruise ship. A lot happened while I was there and a lot happened here while I was gone (apparently). I wrote a lot, worked very hard, faced many challenges and gained a lot of insight being away. I found myself and lost myself so many times over on the open water that I could fill pages and pages worth of read worthy shit (and eventually I will)! However, right now I can’t silence this urge to share about the symbolic and unexpected roommates I found myself living with when I returned in the form of a blossoming Raccoon family that made our house their home.
Co-existing with other species & reflecting on our inner demons:
Until recently I knew very little about Raccoons. In fact, I didn’t understand a damn thing about them… until I did. For the first 25+ years of my life, I knew very little about my own fear…until I confronted it. In fact, there is not a lot of focus on the importance of understanding fear as children so we are forced to figure it out ourselves (if we accept the challenge as adults). My journey through fear is much like my experience with Raccoons. They had not been on my radar at all… until they were and there was no turning back. Fear isn’t something you go out seeking but, much like the Raccoon… it doesn’t really matter what the hell you think because, sometimes you don’t have a clue what is best for you. This is how I came to appreciate Raccoons, what they have shown me, what I learned from the experience and how it pertains to the concepts of fear and love. I believe it to be worthy of sharing…
Our society functions like this: When we are bothered by something, we attempt to remove it. When we don’t like something, we attempt to get rid of it. When we don’t understand something, we attempt to hide it. This is also the way we, as humans, have learned to “manage” our own fear: When we are bothered by something, we attempt to remove it. When we don’t like something, we attempt to get rid of it. When we don’t understand something, we attempt to hide it. My aim for writing today is for the sole purpose of proposing the flip side of fear (which is love) and how, if we learn to escape the illusions of being able to “rid” ourselves of fear by, instead, embracing its purpose…we may find a kinder way of treating ourselves and others, a gentler way of existing (or being) and a more truthful path of purpose.
An Honest & Open Letter to the Source:
Dear Fear, I despise you but, I appreciate you. I will track you down, I will find you and I will know you. I am optimistic that one day we will learn to peacefully co-exist. I accept the challenge of your tempting presence but, I am no longer hungry for what you have to offer. You are a powerful force but, so am I. You make me feel weak and I no longer give you permission to make me feel powerless. Your will is not my own and I have exhausted myself trying to remember this so, I have written down some truths that I feel better serve me if I should happen to forget again in the near future. So goes it…
I acknowledge an urge for validation in longing to feel that what I am doing here matters. That is a part of being human. I will my life to have direction, intention, motivation and unwavering passion that ignites itself into each and everything that I do. That is a part of being a dreamer. I vow to make confident loving decisions driven by empathy and truth rather than guided by an imaginary ladder of success that I have forced upon myself. That is part of being a lover. I refuse to settle. I seek to have it all. I intend to be creative and to create. I intend to make a living doing all that it is I feel I can possibly do here. I am equipped and able to feed and tend to myself because I know that is the only way I can properly care and love others. That is a part of being resilient. I will not fit in a box or make the box fit me. And, I do not wish for you to fit into any type of box either. That is a part of being limitless. I reject the idea that I must be the trend, the norm or the rule. I want to be everything “other” than all or any of that (and more). That is a part of being unique. My actions reflect a desire to feel proud of my reactions to life and empowered (not paralyzed) by the unknown. That is a part of being grounded. I seek to focus more on what I am contributing rather than how I am benefiting. I want my life to be more about love making than making money. I will continue smiling through the chaos and breathing deeply through the uncertainty. That is a part of being fearless. I want to take on the rest of my time here as if it is the only chance I get to do it. I want to see you, feel you and know you like we may never be here together (in this way) again. That is a part of being grateful. I want to be here, fully and presently with an awareness that cannot be shaken by any fear mongering person, city, system, law or society. That is a part of being vulnerable. I affirm every single fucking day that this life is a win-win situation. There is no losing here and there is no battle to be fought or won. There is enough space, abundance and love for us all. That is a part of being openhearted. These ugly wars we fight are inside our beautiful minds. We create illusions to feel small and we stay there because it’s all we’ve ever known. It does not exist and it cannot thrive if we stop feeding it. That is a part of being open minded. I do not need to be remembered, I just need to be me. That is a part of being free.
Here are the cliff notes:
For over a year now in an unsuspecting residential neighborhood home in North Hollywood, Ca. there has been a full on/ full fledged Human vs. Raccoon & Raccoon vs. Home Saga ensuing. Wars have been fought, land was declared, populations grew, roofs were destroyed, roofs were fixed, more roof was destroyed, bricks were laid, tambourines were sounded, flashlights blazed, glowing eyes were caught, a shit ton of rummaging, noise making, rolling, rearranging and… heaven knows what the hell else these Raccoons have been doing but, it was all a happening! There has been a lot of not being entirely sure about the magnitude of the situation going on, humans were terrified, dogs howled, humans were humbled and cats were cautious. Raccoons stayed devoted to home and family, maneuvering Houdini acts time and time again, and dominating their new found territory. Meanwhile, the humans got really busy (doing good and productive work in the world) and so, they became dismissive and felt defeated. The sound of merry music making mammals upstairs heightened as the humans began to feel more and more helpless and then… guess what? Silence!! In the blink of an eye the whole Raccoon family packed up, shipped out and left. They even cleaned up after themselves, fixed up the attic, roof, garage and left a rent check for the last year. It was fucking unreal!
Here’s the Real Story:
Call it coincidence, call it divine inspiration, call it nothing or whatever you want… a conversation with a new friend about used shoes prompted the sharing of an Albert Collins song that lead me to analyze the importance of perspective fear and it felt very fitting to this dramatic Raccoonary. Music moves me and my interpretation of this particular song got my fingers to writing and for that, I am so grateful. Therefore, the titles of the following mini chapters are lyrics from that song which I am declaring as: “The Raccoon Saga Theme Song”, thanks Al!
“Put your shoe on the other foot,
you can walk just like me”:
No, there were no humans attempting to put shoes on raccoon feet during the making of this drama. At first, not a lot of empathy was being expressed. Let’s just say that being open-minded was not at all how this whole Raccoon business began but, it certainly is how it ended. What we thought happened versus what was actually happening was very different. For many months we thought a neighborhood opossum that frequented our backyard had made our attic his home. We weren’t naive to how he was getting in, the roof had a huge hole in it and we saw him around a lot so we just figured it was him. However, a couple of months into my being away from home, my mother spotted a tail hanging out of our garage that did not belong to a one Mr. Opossum. No, it was a Raccoon indeed!
That’s when we came up with a fitting Poor Granddad Opossum vs. Reckless Bachelor Raccoon story about how sadly Mr. Opossum was evicted from his home by Sir Raccoon . The story made sense and made us sympathetic to the plight of Mr. Opossum being displaced from his new home. This left us, for many months, feeling agitated by this invasive Reckless Bachelor Raccoon who was now the primary tenant. But, the story had a glitch that made itself known a few months ago… there was never a one Mr. Opossum living in our attic. Nope, Opossums are typically peaceful creatures at which time the creature catchers informed us that it was highly unlikely this opossum could have done that much damage to our roof. Well shit, there goes our theory, on with reality…
For a few more months we continued thinking that it was all just one (very loud and large) Sir Raccoon all day and night long… this night owl sounded like he was making himself quite comfortable upstairs! So many unexplained noises and so much ruckus ensued at all hours of the night. For what seemed like many moons the humans living here just assumed this 1 solitary creature was responsible for climbing walls, rolling around, building things, making shit out of nothing, setting up shop, coming and going as he pleased and so on…
“Put your hand in another glove,
you can feel just like me”:
My diligent google searching mother was on top of it and once she spotted that tail hanging out of the garage she began thoroughly researching the nature of Raccoons, their mating habits and lifestyles. I suppose you could say that Mama Rizzo became the go to gal for everything Raccoon related. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to us that there could be more than one up there but, that’s exactly what we came to understand… It was not a reckless male bachelor Raccoon living the dream in our Noho home. It was a mother. The hole in our roof, the year long sounds of heaven being moved on earth above us, was a fiercely loyal/protective and devoted Mama Raccoon using her maternal instincts to create a safe home for her soon to be babies to arrive.
I can appreciate differences of opinion but, not where animal welfare is concerned and neither can my family. Yes, we wanted these creatures out of our attic but, not at the expense of their lives. And, especially after coming to the realization that this was a family upstairs not just one giant guy. Our landlord had an aggressive/volatile evacuation plan that did not bode well with our predisposition to kindness for all living beings. Suffice it to say, we were not seeing eye to eye on resurrecting a loving exit strategy.
“Put your tongue on another word,
you can talk just like me”:
I am so proud at the way my parents handled this situation. It was so touching to see my own mother’s maternal instincts in full force as she diligently researched and found the right guys to help us collaborate a peaceful plan. I am so grateful we connected with: West Coast Trappers … (big hugs & shout outs to Chris and Mike who were incredible) !
The Urban Wildlife Trapping Experts
“specialize in humane animal control solutions”
Our experience with them was amazing. They made prompt and numerous trips to our house and each time showed up with more wisdom to offer the situation. They were equipped with a plethora of knowledge pertaining to the intricacies of this specific animal and handled each of them with a lot of care. This team was willing, competent and forthcoming in discussing (at length) what they felt our next move should be and where they would be releasing the babies. They were compassionate and eager to free this Raccoon family safely and we were beyond grateful!
For so many months we could hear them but we never saw them. In meeting them face to face there was a realization that while these animals posed major health concerns, tore up our home and stressed the shit out of us for the better part of a year… by a stroke of nature they had paved their way into our hearts and we wanted them to be treated like family. We were told the babies looked to be around 4 months old (which may have been a blessing because if they were newborns it is likely this house would be filled with pet raccoons right now). We were shocked at how calm they were, they knew us and there was a shared sense of familiarity in the way these baby raccoons looked at us. All one can hope to do in a situation like this is focus on the overall good that was being served in the actualization of setting them free.
Put your eye on another view,
you can see just like me”:
Before sharing the following photos it is my intention to stress how very hard it is for me to see animals in cages. Any animal, at any time, in any cage does not sit well with me. It is not as nature intended. However, occasionally (for humans and animals alike) it has to get worse before there is hope of making it better and that is definitely the approach we had to take with regards to capturing this family and releasing them into the wild, to be free.
This is what the past week revealed to us…
On Saturday the garage door was secured blocking entrance into the house. All we knew at this point was that Mama Raccoon was out of the house. What came next was a mystery…
On Sunday Mama Raccoon was relentless in her pursuit to get back to her babies… moving heavy bricks, pulling out insulation and standing tall atop the roof she once made home for her babies:
Baby #1 was peacefully retrieved & set free by Chris on Monday. He was calm and not aggressive at all. Mama Raccoon continued stalking the property all night long.
Baby #2, the runt of the litter, was peacefully retrieved & set free by Mike on Thursday. She had the sweetest and most mellow disposition. She was eager to receive water from me and love in the form of uninterrupted human to Raccoon eye gazing:
We knew for certain that devoted Mama Raccoon was sensing and watching all of this from a distance. In the last 4 months Mama had likely been taking her babies out, one by one, teaching them to fend, feed and care for themselves. We can only assume this little Raccoon tribe had many adventurous nights gallivanting around North Hollywood only to return to a our theatrically strewn attic of costumes, props and fake scenery galore… a Raccoon’s dream! In the last few weeks we began noticing things from our attic primarily fake flowers in the front yard. We could only hope they were bringing these props down to produce elaborate midnight bandit productions! It came to our attention, via knocks at the door, that neighbors had been witness to the furry tails that had been spotted entering and exiting our home for months. It was a curious time out here in Noho but, inside our hearts were breaking at the reality and we couldn’t help but be touched by what happened next…
Hours after Baby #2 was taken to be released, we found a single fake red poppy flower (from our attic) sitting exactly where the baby and cage had just been and we were moved to tears (we just knew this had to have been the Mama):
“Walk on baby”:
Friday Morning Mama Raccoon finally surrendered to the peanut butter bate. My father cautiously offered her the fake red poppy (likely reminiscent of her babies) and she eagerly pulled the flower into the cage with her:
My own mother and I were able to spend 3 hours sympathizing, conversing and supporting this exhausted mother as the three of us waited for Chris to arrive. We drank our morning coffee and had a much needed heart to heart with Mama Raccoon. It felt like we were in someway connecting with the divine. I am so grateful we had that time together:
This last week had to be so stressful for her. She was such a tired mama and it showed. This post is dedicated to this fearless Mama Raccoon and to the powerful force that is the maternal instinct:
A radical thing happened in the week long process of attempting to evict this Raccoon family, we fell in love with them. Yea, that’s right. We had spent a year devising numerous unsuccessful schemes to get them out of our house but, when it came right down to it, once we stepped away from the situation and looked at the bigger picture, the whole experience felt different. This was the only home these baby raccoons had ever known. It was the home Mama Raccoon had chosen as a safe haven to birth and shelter her litter. We were desperate to peacefully have them removed while at the same time being mad with guilt. The whole thing had become emotionally taxing on our family not to mention very expensive.I can’t say this is how every Raccoon saga goes but, it certainly was the way for our bleeding hearts. Displacing this family from the only home they’ve known was a hard thing to do. Furthermore, we hated the idea of separating the family…
The end of this emotional roller coaster was really something beautiful. Baby #3 was retrieved from our attic the same morning and the relief we all felt in knowing that Mama and one of her beloved babies could be reunited and released together meant everything to us, watch this overwhelmingly powerful event here: Mother and Child Reunion
Reaffirming the Flip Side of Fear:
The moral of this saga goes: Mother Nature has her own agenda. This agenda may (and more often than not) conflict with our personal agendas. It certainly did at first in this scenario. However, as the experience revealed its truth to us the more willing we became to detach ourselves from our fears and a territorial agenda of “getting back our home”. This shift enabled us to move with compassion & closer towards the root of what was creating this upheaval in our lives… mother nature. We are kinder/ gentler people having come to understand these Raccoons… what a blessing it turned out to be!
The great clash of human versus mother nature can create toxicity and a segregation so mighty that we forget the greatest potential for them is in their supreme integration. We were made to co-create not deconstruct. If we can step away far enough to accept that these two potent wills in unity can bridge the experiences we are actually needing to have with those we think we “should” be having… a sense of harmony can begin working its magic in our lives.
Life doesn’t get to be written with a fresh new #2 pencil, folks! There’s no eraser here , so get comfortable with scratching shit out sometimes because, that’s inevitable. Get comfortable with plot twists and rewrites. But, start coming to the realization that what you do, the way you react to life, how you treat others and all living creatures including yourself is the true essence of the story. Yes, it is EASIER to remove something we are bothered by or rid ourselves of something we don’t like or even hide what it is we don’t understand. But, how far will those experiences of removing, riding and hiding take us? More importantly… how enlightened can we possibly hope to become if we simply continue trying to erase that which we don’t take the time to get closer to understanding in a more semi-permanent fashion?
Let’s face it… it’s all temporary, even Raccoons! But, that isn’t an excuse for ignorance nor is it an excuse not to confront the fear of unknown experiences (in all forms) that reveal themselves unexpectedly in our lives. It is time to accept these fears, challenge their place, understand their mechanisms and welcome them with kindness. Ignoring the beast does not make the beast go away. There is no real resolution in blinding ourselves from the darkness, the only real truth is that it exists. For as long as we proceed to bury ourselves in its presence, it has no hope of being shed by the light.
As long as we’re human… fear and love will be the biggest motivating factors in moving us in any direction. The good news is that we alone get the amazing responsibility of choosing which of these powerful forces will guide us. In one massive decision we get to determine whether we want and will ourselves to move closer to our highest calling or further from it. This subsequently makes the choice, to be guided by fear or to be ruled by love, the most important decision we can continue making. I pray that more often than not we choose wisely…
Let Love Reign.