I find something special about living on an island. Perhaps a special energy is created when water flows around a piece of land. I’m not certain what creates the special weirdness that permeates Vashon. Perhaps the whispering of the trees create an almost audible sense of the alien. Whatever the source of the funky Vashon spirit, I love it.
Now, when I talk of a Vashon spirit or special weirdness, I don’t mean that we all express this spirit in the same manner. No. Each person expresses their own special brand of Vashon Weird.
For example, this summer we have a mountain lion living on the island. I’m fairly certain I saw it over a year ago as did one other person. Since no more sightings occurred for over a year, I didn’t pay any attention to it other than checking overhanging trees for predators when I’m out walking. This summer, we’ve had a half-dozen confirmed sightings that we track in our own little facebook group. This group has become one of my greatest joys for people watching. Islanders have divided themselves into several groups.
Naturalists post links to wildlife sites where the uninformed can learn everything they want to know about our resident pumas or mountain lions or cougars as they are called in various places. The Naturalists regularly run through their little speech about how to keep safe in the woods. Woods pretty much cover the entire island. I have about a hundred trees on my one and a half acre, so the advise is needed everywhere.
The Science Deniers respond to the Naturalists by calling them names and insisting that they don’t know anything about wild animals, and the big cat is going to eat them at any moment. Delightfully, nothing anybody says gets past the Science Denier’s fantasy of immediate Armageddon triggered by one very large cat.
Fantasy Islanders seldom leave the bars. They tend to be men of a certain age. They post daily about the cougar they met in Sporty’s Bar or at the Red Bicycle. According to them this cougar tried to pick them up. I don’t have the heart to tell them that any older women in the local bars are there for a drink not for younger men who have a questionable relationship with reality. These guys have detailed descriptions of their cougar sightings that include makeup and tight pants.
The Runners just want to go running in the woods, which is one of those activities the Naturalists say is a really bad idea. One intrepid runner who may have been a former Science Denier came across the cat one morning. He described it as much bigger than he imagined. He says he yelled at it. Neighbors say he screamed like a little girl. Whatever, the cat ran into the woods and The Runner slunk home to change his underwear.
The Cougs are graduates from Washington State University. I fall into this group. When I was in school we still had a live cougar mascot named Butch. I walked by his pen every day on my way to class. Like the other students I’d stop and say hi. I know how big Cougars are and what they sound like and how interested they are in people. Butch never acknowledged greetings or bothered to wake up when we talked to him. I suggested everybody on the island learn the WSU fight song to sing while running. This is good science since one way to avoid sighting things that might soil your underwear is to make noise. Other island WSU grads have taken the opportunity to report sightings of fellow Cougs in WSU sports paraphernalia. We are not appreciated.
The Gardeners just want to grow a few vegetables, some fruit and a lots of flowers. I’m also a member of this group although The Cougs are way more fun. Anyway, we want to enjoy the products of our gardening labor and maybe make a little money selling produce at the farmer’s market. The local deer are our enemies. They eat way more than their share. They killed the strawberry farms on the island. They’ve stolen flowers from my stand at the main intersection in Burton. They stand outside our deer fences looking for a way over, under, around, and through. Gardeners FB posts run something like, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” The Naturalists assure us a mountain lion eats fewer than fifty deer a year—not enough. The Naturalists are no fun either.
The Hunters were disappointed to learn that Vashon does not have a Cougar season this year. They tell us puma tastes like chicken and discuss what caliber weapon to use despite the fact that the only hunting guns allowed on the island are shotguns.
The Perpetually Terrified have been high on adrenalin ever since the first confirmed sighting of the mountain lion. This excitable group is certain this cougar, unlike every other cougar, will be attracted by their garbage or vegetable garden. This cougar lurks on roofs waiting for juicy human prey—we taste like pork, you know. The Perpetually Terrified are Science Deniers and half support the hunters, although they don’t believe in killing. They make daily calls to the Fish and Wildlife people to report the ferocious savage predator that will eat their children and pets. The poor fish and wildlife people patiently explain that it is not a problem animal, and no, they will not come and trap it and relocate it to the mountains. The Perpetually Terrified can be identified around town by the way they constantly look-over-their-shoulders, sit-with-their-backs-to-the-wall, and wear tin-foil vests—the better to confuse an attacking predator, you know.
At the end of the day when islanders of any persuasion go out to close the barn doors and bring the dog inside, we think about the bravado of our facebook posts and secretly fear the Perpetually Terrified might be right and the cougar will leap out of the dark shadows and eat us.
Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.
You may purchase her books at: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann
You may view her flowers, gardens and personal blog at: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html