The Cat and the Marmot

Updated: Mar 13

I fell in love when I was very young. And though I still am young at heart, the elements have taken an undeniable toll on my form and figure. When I was much younger, I would bound through the fields of Big Flat and leap effortlessly around the rocks that line the broken shores of my coastal home.

Like a fleeting summer rain, those days have gone.

It's become harder to catch a meal. My life spared, for the time being, by an abundance of smolt frequenting the pools near the mouth of a small estuary, not far from here.

Before my husband passed we shared this burrow. Our hideaway, tucked cleverly inside a hollowed log, carried inland by an enormous tide, still rests on an endless bed of stone and sand. Seaweed covers its top and barnacles cling to its salted exterior. Empty crab shells litter the entrance, tossed down from the roof by the roosting gulls.

The driftwood here lies waterlogged, strewn around our lot like the broken remains of an old schooner, foolishly taken north from Shelter Cove some fateful evening in the distant past.

When the fog breaks, you can see the mist from the ocean spray for what seems a mile inland. Nothing escapes its damp embrace.

Marty never minded the debris. The cold and wet were all he'd ever known.

I, on the other hand, had a very comfortable life before I met Marty, with regular meals and an abundance of artificial warmth. I remember the long massages I would receive, head to tail, sending me into an uncontrolled purr.

My family would no longer recognize me. I’m thinner. My fur has matted on my once beautiful tail. Marty was as wild and rugged as the shores of our lost coastline. He was a strong and capable outdoors-man; a fierce defender of our territory. And he stole my heart when I first strayed from home, all those years ago. The wind and rain had picked up when I first reached Shipman Creek. I had ventured further than normal. Everyday an adventure when you are young.

A king tide had washed in unusually far and the way home, a rugged hike north along the rocky coast, was cut off by the waves pushing relentlessly past the shore, crashing against the face of the ocean cliffs.

I was stranded. I searched frantically as daylight faded for a place out of the worsening storm.

I scurried under an outcrop after following the creek, by now a small river, inland away from the sea. But I was turned away by a fox, as desperate as I, that had gotten there first.

By the mouth of the estuary I chanced upon a hollowed log among a pile of salted driftwood. I darted inside, knowing the space belonged to some other, wilder animal. I could smell it.

The shelter offered at least the opportunity to clean my fur, tangled with wet sand and matting uncomfortably on my chest and legs. Lulled into complacency by the passing of time, I curled into a ball against the soft wood of the log's interior. Vulnerable and waiting to be discovered, I fell asleep in the relative warmth of the burrow.

In the next hours my mind raced to process the sights and sounds imprinted on it by a day and night in the wild. I dreamed of the adventure and passion of life, the thrill of a good chase, the taste of fresh meat. In my dream, I could feel the ocean mist collect on my whiskers as if I were awake, truly leaping stone to stone across the endless sands of my own subconscious.

And in a state of heightened arousal I dreamed of another, wilder creature; that I could feel his fur pressed passionately against my own.

When I awoke, I was in the arms of a marmot. A marmot! And I had never felt so safe.

To be continued...

The Coastal Underground

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