A Walk on the Wild Side

Dawn environment fall fog


I’m lucky. I live in beautiful Hunterdon County, New Jersey. And there’s wildlife everywhere. On my daily, early morning walks, I see deer, rabbits, squirrels, wild turkeys, even a fox or two, all doing their thing.

The feisty wild turkeys were a rare treat, verbalizing their displeasure at my intrusion like an angry mob. I couldn’t help but chuckle. They seemed to be saying, “Come any closer, and you’ll be sorry.” When I first saw them, they were at least 30 in number. Each time after that, their group dwindled. Last count was five. Now I don’t see them at all. I hope they’re safe, but perhaps the fox or two in the area wiped them out. While the turkeys sleep in the trees at night to protect themselves from attack, they are otherwise vulnerable during the day.  

Like Dr. Doolittle, I talk to every animal I come upon, tell them not to be afraid. I mean them no harm. Most seem to understand … eventually at least. While they always look up when they hear me coming, they don’t run anymore. They simply go back to their business as if to say, “Oh, it’s just her.” Recently, a hawk flew in close range of me, crossing my path not once but twice. I was thrilled to have seen this majestic bird. Later, I read on the internet that hawks represent the messengers of the spirit world. Seeing them means that the universe wants you to learn powerful lessons or expand your knowledge and wisdom. Hey, I’m all for that.

I live in an area also populated with bears. So before I venture out my door, I say a little prayer of protection. “Please keep me safe from all harm … including bears.” That scene from The Revenant when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is mauled by a mother grizzly plays in my head. Since I don’t want a starring role in The Revenant 2, I add, “Especially mother bears out with their babies.”

Last year, I actually did encounter a bear. Fortunately for me, it was a lone bear. (Trust me, I checked around for cubs to make sure.) It was tearing through someone’s garbage, making a mess of things, when we spotted each other. I was pretty terrified. What would I do if it approached me? Run? Play possum? Yell and scream? But it seemed the bear wasn’t interested at all in me. It went back to its task at hand. As for me, I just kept walking at an even pace. After a bit, I wondered: Had it changed its mind? Was it following me now? After all, to that bear, I could have easily passed for a slice of French toast or an Egg McMuffin. I braved a look back. No, it was still rummaging through the trash for rancid scraps of whatever. Huh … I guess I don’t have anything to worry about. I’m not as tasty a morsel as I thought I might be.

Flash Fiction by Patricia Koelmel

I typically write for young readers. I am a member of SCBWI and participate in a weekly critique group. I volunteer at an art museum and enjoy watching the Food Network (my favorite show is Chopped). I walk for exercise and dine out with my husband, family, and friends often.