Raccoon Medicine

by Maria Theresa Maggi on April 27, 2017

I never was the child who tore open the wrapping on the birthday or Christmas presents with abandon, paper and ribbon crumpled and cast aside. For me, there was always a reverence to the opening, a hushed feeling. Was it really my turn? Was this really for me? And then the wrapping, so pretty. I hated to tear it. Carefully, I would try to slide the ribbon off without breaking it, careful to peel the pretty paper along it’s taped seams.

Once the present was opened, the hesitancy continued, no matter how deep my delight or how much it was exactly what I thought I wanted.It was as if the act of receiving it put me in some kind of bewitched awe, as if I didn’t approach it just right I might somehow ruin it. Or maybe it was that I did not have the “right” place to wear the new dress after all. Or maybe what I’d make with my new wood burning set would not come out the way I hoped. Or maybe it was nothing like this. It just seemed like I had to be “ready” to use or inhabit my gift, and that came slowly. Sometimes it could be almost paralyzing, especially if a choice had to be made quickly and publicly.

The Catholic School I attended in first grade was blissfully ignorant of the perils of large class sizes. They squeezed 64 of us 6 year olds into a room meant for about half that many, with one Irish nun at the helm. Sister Conlath. She organized us into rows alphabetically and gave us numbers. Since my last name fell in the middle of the alphabet I was desk number 28.

Sister Conlath was a bit of a battle axe, which apparently my mother didn’t know. One night when she was tucking me in and telling me all the people who loved me, she put Sister Conlath on the list. My eyes got wide, and I asked incredulously, “She DOES?”

My mother thought this was delightful, and told it to me years later, her emphasis on the cuteness of my incredulity, never on the reality of Sister Conlath. Instead she focused on the big reading chart at the back of the classroom and how every time I finished a book I got a shiny foil star after my name and number. Number 28 had the most stars, or close to it.

This should have made me happy, but instead my stomach was in a knot as we were asked to line up and file to the top of the classroom where we each in turn were instructed to pick a prize in the range of how many books we’d read. Everyone got something, but the more you read, the “bigger” your pool of choices. You could pick from lesser prizes, but you could also pick from the more grand ones, which I now realize, where left over “prizes” from the booths at our parish fall festival: pretty dolls, large stuffed animals, and so forth.

The array of choices was a blur to me. I did not want to get up in front of everyone, with my chubby self and my leg in a brace, and best anybody by picking something they couldn’t have. Also, I did not really want another doll. So as the first 27 children slowly filed past the array of things and made their choices, I scouted it all and looked for something I thought I could actually use, which would not incite the envy of anyone else. And I found the perfect thing: a golf ball.

This might seem like a weird choice, but actually it was hand in glove for me. I had been learning to play jacks, no small feat with my weak right hand. (Sister Conlath had already nixed my tendency to make the sign of the cross with my left hand, the one not affected by the mild cerebral palsy: she said it didn’t count unless I did it with my right one.) On a more mundane level, the red rubber balls that came in a set of jacks simply did not have the kick and range a golf ball had. The golf ball went higher, gave  my hands more time to scoop up the required number of jacks before I had to catch the ball. I’d experienced this while playing with my older and wiser neighbor friend, Susan, who had one herself, and generously let me try. She had said it was the best way to go.

And there, on the shelf, was a golf ball on a tee, or a set of 3, or both, it’s hard to remember exactly now. But my eyes locked on them, and the knot in my stomach relaxed. I truly wanted a golf ball, and most likely no one else would. I was home free.

Or so I thought. When it was my turn I didn’t hesitate; I went right up to the golf ball and claimed it as my own. As I began to make my way back to my desk with a contented smile blooming on my often serious face, I suddenly heard Sister Conlath’s reproachful Irish brogue–sh–why in the WORLD had I picked a golf ball when I’d read more books than anyone else in the class and could have my pick of the beautiful dolls and other large prizes?

I froze. This was exactly what I had hoped to avoid–being singled out publicly for “besting” everyone else in their reading achievements. I was mortified. But I held my ground and tightened my grip around the golf ball.

“I want it for playing jacks,” I said, stubbornly and simply, looking her in the eye. I wasn’t going to budge.

There were no such things as super balls when I was in the first grade. The golf ball was the best there was if you wanted to play jacks well. I felt sorry for Sister Conlath that she didn’t see this. I tried my best to explain.

She let me keep the golf ball, but only after chastising me for picking a “silly” prize that was unworthy of me. She meant well. Her order of nuns were excellent reading teachers, and I attribute my great early skills in that area to their insistent and progressive approach. She was merely trying a rare, for her, opportunity to award us all for the efforts she insisted upon every day, and so she must have been anxious about doing it right. But just perhaps this is where I learned to fall back on that hesitancy, wanting to be sure it was now safe to enjoy my new gift, my new choice, whatever it was, without ridicule.

As a young adult, I started realizing how entrenched this tendency had become when I began having poems accepted for publication in small literary journals and magazines. When the hard copy would finally arrive in the mail for me to look at, I’d freeze. I just couldn’t open the pages to where my work had been printed. Would it look ridiculous? Be embarrassing to read on the page? Would my name look ridiculous? Would it be spelled wrong, or would something be left out or, worse yet, would something I left in ruin the whole thing? I’d have to work up to it. Find a quiet time when I could take a deep breath and just look. Turn to the page and be able to make sense of what I was reading and allow it to be in print for other people to read.

As is often happily the case, my child, when he came along, forced my hesitant hand by showing me a better way. From the beginning, he approached the receiving of presents with focused dedication, not only for himself, but for everyone else. At the ripe age of two, he insisted on being the one to hand the presents out from under the Christmas tree, charming everyone in the room. He’d say to young and old alike, as he stood by to watch the unveiling, “You better open it up–you never know–there might be a TOY in there!”

When he got a little older than that he fell in love with lego sets and every birthday or Christmas required a new one he hadn’t yet built. Our Christmas rituals required that we never have to be anywhere or do anything for a few hours afterward because he would disappear with his new set and literally not be available until it was all built. Then we could eat, go visit, whatever else was planned.

The same was true for his birthday. Once when he was visiting my parents, they gave him a set for his birthday. Of course he set right to work building it in their “conversation pit,” a sunken area around the fireplace. My mother thought she’d keep him company and chattered away at him while he was trying to sort things out. He paused only to write a sign that said “don’t talk to me–I’m building.” No one but my son could pull anything like that with my Mom and get away with it. She was flabbergasted and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was next to impossible for her to keep quiet. In fact she talked about how he had shut her up for years to follow (it takes a Leo to know a Leo). At the time, she called me and I let her know the drill. And we both laughed. And my son had his peace and quiet to build in.

I carefully and somewhat wistfully observed that just naturally he didn’t hesitate to receive something he wanted or had asked for. And he also didn’t hesitate to demand the conditions he needed under which to enjoy it. I started to realize that maybe I ought to try to devise more conscious and deliberate strategies for accepting the gifts I am given, whether they are treasured objects, experiences or opportunities.

I’ve gotten better at it, but it still doesn’t come easily. There are shadowy places still where I think it doesn’t matter. As with so many profoundly important things in my life, it continues to be a work in progress.

Enter my teacher, the raccoon.

As some of you may remember, I nicknamed my new house “hummingbird house” because of all the hummingbirds that come around. But after I moved in, although I have continued to maintain the hummingbird feeder, and have seen many more, it became abundantly clear that long-time neighbors had another name for my new home: raccoon house.

The stories about this varied. The realtor seemed to think they had lived in the attic and/or under the house. Others seemed to imply they had come in through the chimney. Another was certain they’d entered through the once-rotted bathroom floor. I never heard these graphic details during escrow. I had also been assured that this name and all that came with it was a thing of the past.

There are so many wild animals in this neighborhood that I lumped this history in with other stories I’ve already heard: black bears that cross the highway to rummage through the dumpsters at the trailer park  where I  used to live part time, seals floating on the swells, and of course the legion of bunnies we see everywhere in the scrub bordering the beach. I’ve even heard that stands of elk have come into the neighborhood and range around on the bluffs. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the birds: hummingbirds, seagulls, crows, mourning doves, finches, robins, blue jays and bald eagles I have yet to see. Even the slugs here are the length of my hand. So squirrels and raccoons seem part and parcel of the teeming wildlife population.

I knew that my new home had stood unoccupied for a number of years before the woman I bought it from purchased it and began to fix it up. I knew that during this time raccoons had gotten into the house, which was why it had acquired its nick name.  So I laughed at the stories as an odd and interesting thing of the past. And sometimes I tried to imagine what the house must have looked like with raccoons living in it. Unlike the realtor, I had my suspicions they had indeed entered beyond the crawlspace. It turns out I was right.

I discovered a couple who lives down the street had looked at it as a possible fixer upper some years ago before they decided instead to purchase a lot and build new. Another couple I knew at the trailer park had also looked at it in this unoccupied state. One of them, a very talented retired interior designer who is not afraid of a big project, said, “It was a MESS.” So I let out a big sigh of relief the first time he came to visit and pronounced it very nice indeed.

And thus, with each exclamation of praise for the new fence, the new roof, or the way my furniture seemed to fit inside as if I’d been living here forever, the  raccoons remained a shadowy figment of the past. At the same time, I was letting a few shadows grow over the house. Without quite realizing it, my old habit of hesitancy to accept a new gift was still in force.

During the inspection I had while in escrow, it was deemed that the threshold on the back door had rotted, and should be replaced. It’s servicable, but is still awaiting a time when my  contractor can come and replace it. The house backs up to trees, salalle bushes and another house fairly close, so my yards are on each side of the house and the back is simply a  mulchy pine needled passageway, with a culvert dug out around the house. It’s not an access I knew we would use a lot, since there’s no fence and I didn’t want the dogs wandering into the neighbor’s yard as they staked out their new territory. But when I had the new fence built around the south side yard, I did have the contractor put in a “back gate” so I could go all the way around the house if we wanted and enter through the back door. But mostly it remained locked and closed.

Because of this, I neglected to remember that the porch light at the back door was burned out when I moved in. With so many things to settle, I kept forgetting to ask someone to change it for me. I would sometimes try it out, and be reminded it needed to be changed. The ability to do it myself safely, with everything else going on, was just out of reach for me. But I thought it wasn’t a priority. Without realizing it, I literally  let the back of the house slip into a kind of shadow.

This tendency became accentuated by my love of turning off all the outside lights at night in order to see stars, either standing outside, or from my bedroom window as I fall asleep or wake up in the wee hours. (It’s often cloudy or I don’t have the right view, but I like the opportunity.)

One night,  all tucked in bed in the wee hours, the dogs and I heard some loud thumps. They seemed to be coming from the back southwest corner of the house. This happened periodically, usually on nights it wasn’t raining. I couldn’t find the source. One night they were so loud I was certain someone might be trying to get in. I even poked my head out that back door. Nothing. Then all would be quiet. It wasn’t constant. I didn’t know what to make of it . With the weather so frequently stormy I chalked it up to a tree branch tossed in the wind hitting the side of the house. I kept it all in shadow.

Then one morning I got up and went to the bathroom counter only to find the tile and everything on it on the right side absolutely drenched in water. I could find no leak anywhere. It just didn’t make sense. So I wiped it all up and decided I must have really missed the mark the previous night when I was cleaning the mirror with a spray bottle, though that didn’t make a whole lot of sense either.

The dogs and I went out for a walk. Once we were home, fed, and I was settled in at the computer, it began to rain with purpose. I started to realize I was hearing really loud dripping that wasn’t coming from the rain chain just outside the living room window where I was sitting, or the way the drops can sometimes hit the large kitchen or bathroom windows facing the back of the house. I went into the bathroom to find a large steady drip coming from a hole in the ceiling where there mostly likely had been a light fixture and no one had gotten around to caulking it closed. I was in shock. Apparently my new roof, twice inspected, was leaking.

In all my 21 years of homeowning and all it’s maintenance challenges, I had never experienced a leaky roof or ceiling. I went blank for a few minutes, then ran to get my bucket. I texted the couple I know best and asked for more buckets, once I realized I would have to empty it when I could still move it and I’d need a replacement. The intensity of the leak ebbed and flowed with the intensity of the rain. The harder it poured the faster, bigger and more intense the drip.

I groped my way through a gaggle of arrangements. I had been given a warranty document through e-mail for the new roof the seller had put on just months ago, but I couldn’t find it. So I wrote my realtor asking her if she could locate it for me.  My neighbor came over with extra buckets. He wondered if it was a possible pipe leak. He went upstairs above the bathroom but thankfully all was sound and dry up there. We determined that while I awaited information about how to get hold of the roofer who had done the work, I should also call my own contractor friend and urge him to come take a look. I knew he was mired down in a job way across town and was also fighting the elements. But my neighbor said, “Tell him to get his butt over here. It’s an emergency.” So I did. At the very least he could cover up whatever hole might be on the roof while I awaited word from the outfit that had done the job.

The warranty e-mail attachment arrived. It was vague, with no conditions or date of service or expiration, only the date issued, as if it had been made up at my request, an afterthought. But it had the firm’s name and contact number on it and my realtor urged me to call him. He was hours away but agreed to come by at the very least before dark and take a look. In the meantime, the bucket filled.

My contractor friend, bless his heart, heard my distress. He created a stopping point at his other job and came to look by late afternoon, long before the original roofer, who was tied up in inspections inland, had promised to get here. Destination on the coast is attenuated, because the coast, by its very nature, is also attenuated, and not right next to the valleys and mountains that eventually give way to it, so it was truly a gift he was able to get here in the time he did.

His face through my sliding glass door as he came down the ladder looked as if he had seen a ghost. He had sent me this photo from up on the roof, which I had not yet seen.


In all his work as a roofer and contractor on both sides of the continent, he had never seen raccoon damage like this. These were some determined raccoons, their instinct most likely driving them to the “home” where they had been born just a few years ago.

If you’ve ever read Wind in the Willows, you may remember Mole’s instinct for home described like this:

“We others who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal’s intercommunications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have  only the word ‘smell,’ for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning, inciting, repelling. It was one of those mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with a very familiar appeal, even while as yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in his efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again. .  .”

I would later learn that the house had stood unoccuppied for 5 years, that my seller had owned it for 2 years after that, and that the raccoons had been so expert at pulling the shakes off the old roof that in the end she had replaced the entire roof with materials everyone considered raccoon proof.

Now I admit, there were a few moments I put my head in my hands (all this happened during my nap time, so no nap of course), but there was another part of me that was perking up to pay attention. And even chuckling a little, in a paradoxical combination of incredulity and recognition. Of course, even though they damaged my roof to the tune of almost $500 (just under the amount any insurance I have would pay for it, and of course raccoon damage is not covered by a warranty designed to ensure workmanship), I did not want a solution that would harm them, only one that would discourage them. Intuitively, I understood how strong their instinct to find “home” must be.

My contractor friend had relocated many a racoon on the east coast, so he suggested a have-a-hart trap and offered to be the one to do the relocating if it came to that. And I began to ask the internet the 64 thousand dollar question: how to deter raccoons naturally and without poison or anything else that would intimidate my rather mild mannered dogs.

My first search efforts turned up a solar battery powered device on a certain online retail giant that flashed a red light that purported to repell the raccoons. The first review was all praise and success, but the second one showed a photo of the raccoon right up next to it, completely unphased. I laughed out loud. Maybe fancy new flashing red lights were not necessary. Too much like a squad car. I began to backtrack and review my own behavior and then to look deeper about what the raccoon had to teach me about myself.

Whenever I begin such a review, the most simple things I’ve left out become painfully obvious. From my reading, it was obvious that raccoons are nocturnal and are discouraged by light. The porch light had to be changed and left on, along with the very bright lights in either direction at the sliding glass door. It finally dawned on me that’s what the lights were there for in the first place.

The night after the leak, the roof was tarped and secured with bricks. The lights stayed on and no one dropped onto the roof. Early the next morning my contractor friend repaired the roof, replaced the chewed flange, and pruned back the huge cedar branch that was overhanging that section of the roof, allowing the raccoons to crawl out onto it and swing down onto the roof from there. Thump. Like monkeys almost. Apparently there was someone trying to get in the night I looked. I just didn’t know where and how to look.

This also made me smile, a good sign. The night after the repairs, we went to bed with the back porch light on. But I forgot to turn on the double duty ones near the sliding glass door. Again, in the wee hours of the morning, the dogs and I heard a thump, this time near the front of the house. We immediately went to the front door, and went out and made a racket. I let the dogs roam around and I yelled something about going away or getting off the roof. I turned the side lights on and the rest of the night was quiet. Every night since the lights have been on and there are no more thumps in the night.

The raccoons, though they tried mightily, never made it in, and I never saw a one. But clearly they had a message for me.

On the third night after the leak in the bathroom ceiling, I stood on my front door threshold as twilight approached, and had a conversation with the raccoons I was certain were nearby. (It turned out that I later learned they might have been very close by–in general they live in the culverts that run around the outside of the lots all through my neighborhood.) I told them that I truly did understand about being displaced, but that now the house was no longer truly a safe and private place for them to come back to nest to. I wished them a cozier, safer place in the forest just a block over, or wherever else they chose, where they would not be trapped, poisoned, frightened or otherwise bothered. I said it was non-negotiable because the place their instincts remembered was gone. Two rather large dogs, from a raccoons perspective anyway, lived in it, and a human, to boot. There were lights and noisy machines. It wasn’t easy to get in and out of anymore. But it would be very easy to get trapped and be very frightened. To seal the deal, I walked around the house with my  lit smudge stick, first smudging in the bathroom where the leak had occurred, and then all around the house and the trees that offered them access to the roof. I watched as the extra solar lights I had placed began to glow, and I turned on all the porch lights.

It felt like something had shifted, mostly in me. I was sweeping away the shadows and claiming the entirety of my space  without violence or conflict.

In my reading on raccoon prevention I had turned to an approach not many might embrace, or even take seriously, but which for me is essential. I thought it would be at least as worth my time to read about the significance of raccoon in native american lore and medicine as it  was to learn they avoid areas that are brightly lit to begin with. In my reading I found some very delightful things that hit the nail on the head and made me laugh.

Apparently one spiritiually minded woman had first tried the same solar powered red light flashing device I had read about when the raccoons made for her vegetable garden right outside her sliding glass door. They simply figured out how to turn the device on its side so the flashing red light was covered, and went on eating the veggies. After a few nights of this, she admitted defeat, put the device in the garage, and meditated on the spirit of raccoon, asking it to please spare her garden. The raccoons went away.

I think I also need the porch lights on, but I also know in my gut my respectful conversation with them made a difference, even though I can never prove that. What it did for me was take me out of a place of hesitancy and anxiety. It helped me step up and claim the gift I’ve been given in the form of this new home, and claim it all the way to every dark corner and edge.

And though I’d never actually seen them, I thought it would add to the power of our shamanic connection if I spent some time sketching their images, out of respect for their lives and their needs, not so different than mine. One of those sketches is at the top of this post.

Raccoons are scavengers. They squat and take what does not appear to be used. I had to laugh about that too, because I align with that energy. I find or glean things all the time no one else wants and make use of them. I have many clothes and garden pots and objects I found in free boxes in Portland and even the laptop I am typing on I bought refurbished. I have discovered a seemingly defunct community garden within walking distance of my new house, on land owned by the fire district. The administrative assistant encouraged me to go ahead and squat, after weeks of inquiry about who, if anyone, is still coordinating it turned up no answers. Another couple asking the same thing surfaced and the three of us are making a place within it and waiting to see who else might come along, hoping we can all work together. And like the raccoon, I learn about these things I find by holding and manipulating them in my physical hands.

So I began to see that raccoon medicine might be saying to me, “hey, if you’re not going to use all of this house as your own, we’ll just swing down here and try to get in our old haunt again.” Keeping it dark and covered by a low hanging branch was my “permission” for them to enter. Now that I have filled my space completely with a better energetic boundary, lots of light, and trimmed branches, it seems my new message has been delivered.

If not, there are other non-destructive, non-invasive steps I can take. But for now, this “less” is definitely “more.” And when I need reminding, I listen to this song a wildlife relocator used to accompany her film of a mother raccoon moving her kits to a new location in the forest, beyond the fenced area where she had temporarily placed them, after rescuing them from a house situation that was not tenable. The first time I heard it I couldn’t stop giggling. Initially it seemed an unusual, excessively silly and sentimental accompaniment. But as I continued to listen, I realized it delighted the heck out of me and the words were the very ones I needed to internalize in order to claim my own space:

Time and space stretch out before you/and the universe implores you/take your place among all things/and see what tomorrow brings/to your own self be true/there’s nothing more to do.

In truth, it made me so happy and delighted to hear it, I’ve played it as a kind of soundtrack each morning I’ve worked to finish this blog post. So I’ll leave you with the opportunity to take listen to it here.

Even in my 60’s, I’m still learning to claim my golf balls, unwrap my presents with relish, and wiggle my toes all the way into them. At the same time, I hope I never stop finding things or favorite “secret” spots others have left by the wayside, but mostly I hope I never stop discovering affinity in the most unlikely experiences. It’s the best gift of all.

Maria (moonwatcher)




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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Donna Betts April 28, 2017 at 9:30 am

So delightful as usual – I so relate to your experiences — I am exactly the same way in accepting gifts (very difficult for me) it takes me forever to open one and I also go into this weird space in my head — daze like. When I was in grammar school I was the school spelling bee champ starting in the 5th grade through the 8th grade — I felt so much pressure –and adults were always praising me for my accomplishments — which again made me very uncomfortable — my Mother was suffering from mental illness and was in and out of mental hospitals – she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic –extremely intelligent and a musical prodigy — so I don’t know if because my brother and I were on our own much of our early years and me being the oldest — had to slip into the mother role much of the time. Maybe I felt too much attention was on me. I could be very bossy to my brother in those days. I have many funny stories from those times. Trying to keep this short and to the point — but as I go back my mind is flooded with more of the back story. 🙂 I didn’t think much about my hesitation to accept gifts or praise – but your story is making me think of that trait in myself. Glad to know I am not alone. 🙂 I was very smart in school but tried to down play that as wanted to be accepted by my peers. Hey but I wouldn’t change anything nor can I – makes us who we are and we develop character — ah raccoons — I live in Long Beach, Ca in the city — and it is true the raccoons do navigate through the culverts. I was a single parent – two sons — and living in a residential part of the city — we had been in the house for about 10 years. At that time we had 3 cats, 2 dogs, 1 bird, fish. This is an older home and had 2 long windows in the front room joined by a bay window in the middle. One of the long windows I left open a few inches on the bottom so the cats could go in and out.
So they did the business outside. One summer evening I came home after an outdoor concert – it was about 9:30. One of my sons met me at the door and told me he had been listening to a baseball game in his room and he heard something coming from the kitchen. He said “Mom – there was a raccoon in the house”.
I am thinking – he is a city boy – does he really know what a raccoon looks like in person — he wanted me to close the window – but I wanted to see if the raccoon would come back. In the meantime my other son came home. So we turned out all of the lights and we all went to bed. Maybe in about 15 minutes one of my dogs – Lilly – started growling. So I quickly got up turned on the lights – and in my kitchen was a family of raccoons — 2 adults and 3 youngsters (teenage kits). When they saw us they ran to my living room and out the windows they went. They sat across the street by the culvert looking back at us – so cute. I called animal control the next day and they said they had received hundreds of calls that day about the raccoons. They had no advice for me except that I could call an exterminator or some company to trap them – no I didn’t do that. ( I had roof rats also at that time and I did get have a heart trap and trapped altogether that summer 17 rats – yikes. I moved them to an open lot in Signal Hill.) We were in an extreme drought situation at that time also. It was so funny – in a matter of minutes they had washed their little paws in the cat’s water and made a mess in the kitchen. I left the windows closed for about a couple of weeks – but then went back to leaving it ajar. They came back one more time later that summer — but that was it. I had 2 big raccoons in my front yard a couple months back fighting with each other – then one of them went up my holly bush onto my roof. I used to have one that slept above me at night and I would hear him thump on my roof and I started talking to him. When I reroofed my house — he no longer came for nightly visits – but they still come on my roof to eat my oranges. We also have many coyotes in our neighborhood also. So if I still had kitty cats – they would have to be kept inside as the cat population is actually disappearing in our city right now.
I don’t have the heart to keep a cat cooped up in a house. They love to go out and explore. OK– well you really got me going this morning – I hope you can make sense of this as I skipped around in my story telling. Thank you for sharing — I love your energy. donna B


2 Maria Theresa Maggi April 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

OH Donna!! Thank you for all this, for your kind words and your racoon and critter memories!! We are on the same page. I especially love the image of the racoon on the roof eating from your orange tree and you talking to it. And the family of them, after they “escaped” from your kitchen, staring back at you and your sons from the culvert across the street! What a delight to hear from a kindred spirit in so mamy ways. xoxo


3 Silvia April 29, 2017 at 8:16 am

Wonderful story. I enjoyed reading it and I appreciate your peaceful appoach!

Greetings from Silvia in Germany


4 Maria Theresa Maggi April 29, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Thank you so much, Silvia! I sure appreciate your thoughtful reading from all the way across the world in Germany. Bless you for being such a faithful reader!


5 Karen May 3, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Hi Maria, I enjoy reading all of your posts. They are so thoughtful. Thank you for this “meditation” on how to live in harmony with other living creatures while perserving and claiming what you need to live a full life. I especially appreciated how you tied this experience to your childhood emotions and coping behaviors. Thanks for sharing this part of your life journey with us! Hugs and love, –Karen


6 Maria Theresa Maggi May 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Thank you Karen! I so appreciate knowing you are reading along, and that you enjoyed this particular post the way you did. It means a lot to me. Hugs and love back!


7 Terri May 3, 2017 at 6:11 pm

I love that you had empathy for these raccoons and worked hard to find an ethical way to deal with the situation.


8 Maria Theresa Maggi May 3, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Thank you Terri! 🙂


9 Veronica May 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Oh, those ridiculous little trash pandas!! They are destructive and messy, but some of the cleverest and most persistent creatures out there. I’m so very glad you went the humane route. As I spend my time in wildlife rehabilitation, I see so much of the cruelty people do to animals just because they are trying to survive. The critters don’t know that the apple tree you spent hours pruning and taking care of isn’t for them – it’s outside! And that the hole in your roof isn’t an invitation to a nice warm and safe space for them to have babies. We all just need to learn to live well with the wildlife around us, and learn ways to deal with issues in a humane way – with patience and persistence of our own.
Each and every critter has their place and their use in the cycle of life. Raccoons are nature’s garbage disposals. 🙂 One night we heard a huge ruckus out by the trash bin (at 3am) – we go to investigate, and what do we see? 4 of these masked night bandits digging in the trash, literally holding the lid in their hands. We are poking them with brooms and yelling at them, they just give us this look like, “what are you doing?” while pushing the broom away from them. Eventually they get annoyed by us and walk away. We got a better trash bin after that… And no more issues!
We had a rat issue inside the house, too (ugh) – I love rats, though – they are sweet and smart and so misunderstood. But anyway, I had an exclusion service come and seal up all the holes (and I had them put a one-way exit I made on the big hole so they can get out on their own, but not back in). They wanted to put snap traps out, which I refused – so I just put a few live traps in the crawl space and checked them 3 times a day. I caught 2, and just let them back outside, telling them they don’t belong inside and they’re better off in the ivy outside by the creek. They both stopped and turned around to look at me before running off to their freedom.
I have so many stories of my work with the wildlife I see at the clinic, good and bad. And it warms my heart to know there’s one more person out there who chooses peace over the “easy” way of just killing the “annoyance.” So thank you, from me and the trash pandas. That is a gift you give the world every day.


10 Veronica May 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Oh, and I LOVE the drawing!!


11 Maria Theresa Maggi May 4, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Thank you so much, Veronica, for sharing your own stories here about critters and what you see and learn in your own life as a homeowner and in wildlife rehabilitation. I had to laugh about the raccoons and your garbage cans–they are tough customers! They used to get into the dog food I kept in the barn on Asbury Street and I had to get a metal trash can to put it in–the only kind they couldn’t open! And just for the record there was no hole in my roof–it was brand new, made from materials other than the shakes they had previously been able to pull up and STILL they worked at it until they were almost in–instinct is SO strong!! And yet, like you, I’d rather be gentle but firm and I’m glad that worked. it’s funny, though, they seem totally uninterested in my trash–go figure. I’m so glad you love the drawing too!! xo


12 Gena May 7, 2017 at 5:40 am

Wow, Maria. What a wonderful reflection on your experience of learning to fully inhabit your space—a lesson with a very unexpected set of teachers!

I love the way you contrast your own hesitancy and caution with opening gifts to your son’s confident, gracious yet unentitled experience of them. I believe that there is an art to recognizing and then accepting gifts, and your post really speaks to that and how we come to figure it out.

I also smiled from ear to ear to read about the generous, loving, and nonviolent way you communicated with the raccoons. I know that displacement and loss of space has been a theme on your blog recently, and in other recent posts the displacement you’ve described has been neither gracious nor regenerative nor kind. I think you not only found a way to claim your space with kindness, gently, but you also created your own counterpart to some of the avarice and coldness you’ve recently observed.

Beautiful post to read as I begin this Sunday—thank you!



13 Maria Theresa Maggi May 7, 2017 at 8:47 am

Dear Gena, thank you so much for your lovely insights here! I love how you put it, that there is an art to recognizing and accepting gifts, and that we “figure that out.” Yes, yes, indeed. I was also very moved by your recognition of my discovering a way to claim my space with kindness, gently, and in so doing, creating a counterpart to some of the avarice and coldness I observe. YES. To me, that is the most profoundly useful approach in this challenging world. I thank you beyond words for knowing and supporting what I am up to. xoxo


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