Saturday, May 07, 2005
Hippies In The Mist

One of the things I really love about living in semi-rural Vermont is the frequent opportunity to observe our local natural world going about its natural business. Brief encounters with various critters are relatively common -- landowners here tend to gently maintain large patches of wooded areas, so critters can basically move freely about the area without fear of harm. Usually they stay well away from areas of human inhabitation, but now and then they venture closer and, if your timing's good, sometime's you're there when they appear.

Last night, for example, I was headed down to the college maintenance building to pick up the van for my late-night run, when a young doe bolted straight across my path, not ten feet away, and off across a nearby field. Whitetail deer are certainly not remotely uncommon around here, but it's still exhilerating to see one up close. My favorite encounter was years ago on a dirt road, where I saw a big ol' mama moose and her two baby mooselets grazing on ferns in a culvert. I also had a very exciting, tense moment with a young bull moose one day, as he leapt over a low stone wall onto the road about a hundred feet ahead of my car; I stopped, and he spent maybe twenty seconds trying to figure out whether he should run for his life or charge my car. Fortunately for me, he chose to do the former.

But this morning was, I think, the most bizarre encounter I've had with the fauna of southern Vermont. I was driving the van along the college road, when suddenly some twelve or fifteen Morris dancers -- a small herd, complete with males, females, and juveniles -- appeared before me, already in their full spring plumage: they had their bells, their sticks, their suspenders and knee garters and little hats, their twirly rags, the whole bit, dancing happily along the road. It was really quite heartwarming. They made way for me -- they're very gentle and friendly -- and I eased past. When I drove by again half an hour later, they were gone without any trace.

They must live around here somewhere -- I've had to deal with a Morris dancer infestation before (Smithers knows what I'm talking about), so I'd just as soon they stay out in the woods, frankly. They're a bit like starlings, another British import to this country -- lovely in small numbers, but if you don't keep their populations under control it can all become a bit much. And since they don't have any natural predators in this area (lager louts, football hooligans, rednecks, mountain lions), that's a big if.

But when they materialize from the misty woods along the roadside and gradually converge into their neat rows and start hopping and twirling in the morning light, you just can't bring yourself to hate them. If Hare Krishnas are the urban pigeons of the strange-but-cheery, vaguely-hypnotic cultish dance world, then Morris dancers are surely the doves.
2:02 PM ::
Amy :: permalink