Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Building a life # 6. The feral cats of Cat Hill.

The day when we first arrived, I lifted the smelly box of wild cats out from the truck and opened it. Zoom! The mother and daughter disappeared downhill into the trees like smoke. The girls became the cat`s caretakers and carried food down to the base of a tall rock outcrop. To get there they had to push their way through an alder thicket by the stream and then walk down a shadowy old trail. The salal undergrowth was far over their heads and the great firs and cedars stretched up forever. It was a spooky place, especially in the evening, full of spirits and now the hiding place of two cats who lurked while the girls quickly delivered their meal and ran back to the light of the clearing.

One of the first things we did was to try to find the property boundaries. With compass and a long string I set off through the forest swimming through the high salal, ocean spray and red current bushes that masked a mess of old logs, all rotten and slippery beneath my feet. I plunged through to the ground through cris-crossed logs, crawled up, balanced precariously, walked along a log, plunged down once more. The string payed out behind me and warned me if I was wandering off the compass course. “No worries,” I muttered when it felt like I might drown or wander lost forever. I was glad to find the clear spaces beneath the big cedar trees, like islands in the wild ocean of vegetation. At the bottom of the sloping seven acres were some enormous broadleaf maples which had found some open sky in a logged off clearing from long ago. A cedar stump several feet across still held an ancient tobacco tin from the 1940`s, bits of rusted cable draped over rocks. Some of the big trees around the overgrown clearing were bent from being mangled during the logging process or growing up through logging slash that had long since rotted away. I was walking through a forest of second growth - one cut away from the forest primaeval.

One place other than our little clearing with our summer camp that was clear of undergrowth was the top of the mossy outcrop that stood above the cat feeding place. It was the first landmark we named - Cat Hill.

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