Thursday, July 06, 2006

keeping warm

I woke up last night with something staring me in the face.

It must have been two am and I had fallen asleep on the sofa.

And when I opened my eyes, there it was, staring at me.

Actually, there were two of them, perched on my chest and looking rather intend.

It made me think of the time I rode a bike, alone, across Utah, from Colorado to Nevada, traveling on only dirt roads.

And that night in early May when it had turned cold and my sleeping bag wasn't warm enough. And the wind was blowing.

I moved my sleeping bag under a little overhang somewhere near the Maze. Maybe it was the mouth of a shallow cave.

And woke up in the middle of the night when something had crawled into my sleeping bag with me and was sleeping (I dreamed?) on my chest.

I don't know if I was dreaming or not, I don't think I was, but I know there was something there.

And all of a sudden I was yelling and swatting at whatever it was and out of the sleeping bag and banging my head on the rocks just a few feet above my head and then sliding out into the desert, bag and all.

And standing there with the desert stars all around me and trying to catch my breath.

What had it been?

I was sure it had been a pack rat. A little desert rodent had climbed into my sleeping bag with me and snuggled up to be warm.

Or had I dreamed it all?

Picking up my sleeping bag, I peered back into the space.

I had noticed when I'd picked the spot that there were signs of something living further back in the outcropping. I remembered going to sleep casually thinking that maybe a pack rat was living back further in and thinking that with my sleeping bag zipped up tight I wasn't going to be bothered.

And climbing in there because I had been so cold (the wind was still blowing).

Had I just been dreaming and imagined it all.

That's how I felt when I woke up the other night. Only...

Only when I woke up I didn't swat at the creatures on my chest.

And they were still there.

Two of the baby grouse. Sometime after I had fallen asleep they had flown up on the sofa and had nestled down, right there on my chest.

I rubbed my eyes. Picked them up and carried them over to the corner to their heat lamp and newspaper bed. 

It was time to pick up my book from where it had fallen on the floor, turn off the stereo, and go up the stairs to bed.

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