The chief topic of conversation has been the would-be intruder. I noticed the footprints while cleaning the glass on the French doors. The culprit had tracked through mud before stealing onto the patio, leaning against the door and peering into the house. There was no mistaking the prints. They were large, distinct and clearly those of a raccoon.
Naturally, this sort of news spreads fast. Many of the grands have had a look to analyze the situation for themselves. Theories abound. Maybe he was hungry, maybe he heard the music, or the laughing, or nothing at all. Maybe it wasn’t a he but a she — a momma looking for food for her babies.
And to think that something as thin as window glass separated us from a night visitor. It is a reminder of an entire world that operates largely unseen beneath the cover of darkness.
Raccoons explore, deer forage, and bats dip low over streams for a quick drink. Frogs telegraph news bulletins to one another across the pond.
Clouds glide through the sky, pulling entire weather systems behind them. Some carry nothing more than a whispering breeze; others release gentle rains that soothe the grass and awaken blooms. Still others jar those sleeping with bolts of lightning and a barrage of thunder.
Not only animals and the elements stir at night, humans do, too. Night shifts keep power plants running, planes landing and hospitals operating.
Even if we don’t work the night shift, our bodies are working as we sleep. According to a book on learning how to learn, the brain rehearses new information acquired in the daytime while we sleep at night. Electrical signals travel again and again through the same set of neurons strengthening brain-link pathways, like practice runs before the big race.
The human body regenerates in a myriad of ways under the blanket of night. Worry dissipates for a time, the limbs relax, scrapes on children’s knees grow new skin cells, surgical incisions knit together, and even broken hearts may slowly begin to heal.
Of course, not everything that happens under the stars is of a quiet or healing nature. Clothes hangers multiply, dresser drawers gleefully rearrange their contents, and storage containers and lids in the kitchen cabinet party like it’s New Year’s Eve.
An entire unseen world surrounds us, and even supports us, yet we tend to gravitate to that which we see. It makes you wonder how life might be different if we paid more attention to the things that so often go unnoticed and undetected. We might find ourselves a little more resilient, a little more hopeful and lot more appreciative. We might even be a little more enthralled with the wonders and mysteries of life.
To the furry nighttime visitor at the back door — “Sorry we missed seeing you. Maybe next time.”
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.