Paperwork, moving and a raccoon

September 7, 2009 | My Jottings

For several days I’ve been watching an industrious and creepy spider spin her web right outside my office window, two feet from where I sit. She never seemed to be still, and her sinister jointed legs picked their way over the tiny strands with a delicate deliberation that gave me the willies. I am not a fan of spiders. I know how much good they do, eating untold millions of bugs each day, and I’m aware that our planet would be overrun with other insects if it weren’t for spiders, but I still don’t think fondly of them.

My friend Tauni’s daughter Shannon had some spine-chilling spider experiences recently — she wrote about them so well on her blog, here. Watching the spider by my window wasn’t anything like Shannon’s arachnid afflictions, but it still made me think. (You know how strange and off-kilter your life has become when spiders make you think.)

The nickel-sized spider outside my window died a few days after making her home there, and is still attached to her web. She is getting more translucent by the day, and her eight legs, previously eerily jointed, are now relaxed and stretched smooth and long. The fall breezes blow the sad remnant of her little web around, and her with it. I’m wondering if she will still be there when the first snow falls.

This kind of aimless pondering is the result of having too much paperwork to do. Looking at dead spiders in their ruined webs and musing about the complexities of life seems like the most normal thing in the world when you have piles of papers around you that must be tended to daily.

We have a business that is licensed by the State and by the County, and every two years the State of Minnesota comes into our home and goes over our paperwork to make sure we’re doing everything correctly and that we deserve to keep the license we’ve been given. The licensor spends the entire day at our kitchen table, surrounded by stacked notebooks full of my carefully kept paperwork, poring over every single page and issuing citations if something is not quite right. We love our work and are so thankful for it, but the bane of our business is the hours of paperwork, schmaperwork, that is required each week.

So gazing at a dead spider stuck to an old web is an oddly welcome diversion from all this never-ending record keeping.

And, I’ve been thinking about moving. I have always hated moving, because I’m a nester and love settling in and staying for decades in one place. Why try something new when the old has always worked? is the melancholy person’s motto, and up until recently it was most certainly mine. But I’m thinking about moving to a smaller house. Something that doesn’t demand so much of us.

I asked Michael recently what he would think about selling everything and moving to Madeline Island — just getting a cozy two bedroom house on the largest island in the Apostle Islands chain in Lake Superior, and he was open to the idea. He is open to most ideas, though, because he isn’t allergic to change like I am. He loves change.

I think if I didn’t have grandbabies so close by, I would call a Madeline Island real estate agent today. I’ve already looked online at the available houses, and there are two or three I think could work. But the thought of moving two hours away from these sweet children makes my heart ache. So right now, like my contemplation of the dead spider blowing in the breeze, a move to Madeline Island is something that I only think about when the paperwork Alps are getting too steep for me to climb.

Lastly, a few days ago Edith and Millie were outside in the morning, doing their intense sniffing and brisk trotting around the perimeter of the back yard. I heard them start to bark, but it was shriek-barking, not woof-barking. I figured they had spotted one of the eighty-seven bunnies that live in our woods, and I looked out the kitchen window to see. It wasn’t a rabbit at all, but a raccoon the size of an overturned wheelbarrow, teeth viciously bared, chasing Millie and about to attack. Millie kept darting away from the raccoon and then the animal would reluctantly retreat, waddling over the bank of the little creek in our back yard. Then the dogs would frantically sniff and draw close to the spot where the coon had disappeared, and there he would come again, up over the bank, rushing and growling toward our Schnauzers. He was alarmingly quick. I went to the door to call the dogs in, and the huge raccoon, literally the size of a giant, dome-like desert tortoise, chased them close to the house.

I haven’t seen the masked marauder since, but we all know he’s out there. Maybe helping his wife protect some babies? Maybe drawing maps and planning midnight raids to get into our garbage?

All I can say is, don’t try it, Rocky. Take your little baby raccoons and move it on down the creek. If I see you again I will come at you with a towering pile of paperwork that will make you sorry you ever set foot on the banks of Birdinal Creek. You will soon be transparent and lifeless, legs relaxed and outstretched, stuck in a web and wafting in the wind, a shell of your former rancorous raccoon self.

Oh dear. Maybe moving to an island, away from all the stress, really would help after all.


  1. Sharon says:

    What if:
    — You move to Madeline Island and one of the dogs goes for a swim and drowns in Lake Superior? The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead. ESPECIALLY when the skies of November turn gloomy.

    — On the ferry to the mainland, the main hatchway caves in, and the cook has to come on deck and say, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya?”

    — What if you capsize? Have I mentioned that Superior never gives up her dead? The legend lives on, from the Chippewa on down.

    — You just buy a summer home there?

  2. Just Julie says:

    That was hysterical. I laughed. 🙂

  3. Jeremy says:

    Very good. I usually refrain from commenting on your ruminations because they stand so well alone. But the only raccoon I was ever acquainted with was in love with me (meaning it left piles of berry-seeded scat outside my bedroom door for months) ostensibly because I scared a pack of dogs away from treeing her. So I suppose that I am on the other side of Birdnal Creek, raccoon-politically-speaking.
    I say, move to Madeline island. Do you think I don’t want to have a reason to drive out there? But ask yourself, do you eat enough cheese to qualify for Wisconsin citizenship? Enough to compensate for your abstention from Leinenkugels? That is a lot of cheese.

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