Winter Raccoon 

It was the witching hour, in the dead of winter. I was playing cards with Yolanda and Angie, two of my cousins from Ohio, and my mom when our nightmare began. It started with the sound of sharp blades cutting through fabric, and a cold breeze entering the room. Being the only one with my back towards the sound, my fear was suspended in the unknown. I saw the faces of my family, their eyes widened, their faces pale. I heard nothing but the fear that invaded our home. Pangs of terror soared through my skin each time I heard the sounds of steel breaking through. As my family pushed away from the kitchen table and ran towards the opposite end of the house, all I heard were the screams. My cousins plead with my mom, “Tia! Please! Oh, God! What is it?” My mom pleading for my father to wake up, “Juan! Juan! Something is in our home! Oh, God! Juan!”

As I turned towards the sound, I saw three long, jagged cuts in the material covering the fireplace. I moved closer to inspect what was on the other side until I was hunched over staring directly into another set of eyes. The cold winter air wrapped around my throat, suffocating my fear, I couldn’t scream or cry for help. I slowly took a step back, then another, and another, I am now huddled in a corner with the rest of my family, and horrific realization that my father was still asleep in the next room.

Before I could grab hold of my mom, I heard another tear shredding the fabric in two. A wolf-like figure jumped out of the fire place. It wore a mask and had claws like daggers. A long black stripe ran from its head to its tail, and the tail – a striped thick bush of fur, this creature with its demonic shape and hissing noises leapt from the fireplace and into my mom’s vanity room. “Is that a ra-ra-raccoon?” my cousin echoed in the distance.

If my mom was scared moments before, she is now terrified, horrified, petrified, scarified knowing that this devilish imp has locked itself inside this tiny room. Inside this 4 by 8 inch fortress was the fountain of youth. As a child I remember seeing my mom transform from her day to night look with the application of a darker lip or eye. I remember sitting on the granite countertop and dreaming of the day that I would be able to have my very own perfumes, make-up, cleansers, nail polishes, oils, myrrh, and frankincense. “JUAN!!!!!!” she cried. Finally, my father, half-dressed and completely disoriented, bolted out of the bedroom and into the living room to save the day. Before he could finish tying his robe, my mother yelled at him, “It’s a raccoon! A raccoon has locked itself in my vanity!”

As if our winter evening wasn’t chaotic enough, from the vanity room, we heard sounds of drawers and cabinets opening and slamming shut, plastic containers hitting the floor and walls. The raccoon, clearly demon-possessed, sounded as if it was crawling on the ceiling. I was starting to believe the sounds could not possibly come from one raccoon alone but thirty, fifty, a hundred, a hundred-thousand legions of them. Whether it was one or a hell’s gate, it was clear that my mom’s cosmetic collection, and the fountain of youth itself, was being violated by a godless animal.

We each inched closer towards the sound, until we found ourselves standing in the living room in a silent fear at the many deaths my mom was experiencing in this moment. There was nothing we could say to comfort her or to undo the victimization of my mom’s Clinique, Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, Lancôme, and Elizabeth Arden collection. Nothing!

My mom, in tears, seems so fragile in that moment. Seeing her lost in the memories of her free-gift-with-purchase sprees, her buy-one-get-one-free frenzies, her twenty-five-percent-off excursions. It was all for not. With each clanging and crashing of beauty essentials and each screeching and scratching of the room itself, this creature from hell had violated my mother’s very essence. “Oh, my God! This isn’t happening! Juan! Myyyyyyyyy make-up!” she wailed in anguish. In this moment, I came to realize how precious life truly is. Such a profound sense of clarity, yet I felt so helpless.

Suddenly, there was silence. The house went quiet. My father, in a single bound leapt to the back door by the fireplace and swung it open. His robe moving in one solid stride seemed to lift him into the air. “Stand back,” my father said as he puffed out his chest. He opened the door to the vanity and before we could react, the raccoon – knowing he is no match for my father and his house shoes – ran towards the back door and disappeared into the midnight air.

But the vanity…

I still do not have the words to explain the devastation that winter raccoon caused. It is a sight I can never unsee, and a moment I will never forget.

© 2016 Cyndi Piña, All Rights Reserved

On Wilderness

Wilderness represents the truth and beauty that is life. It represents what is unknown and what is yet to be discovered about ourselves.

Too often, we tend to fear what we do not yet know or understand.

At times we may even rush to harsh criticism or judgment out of fear of not knowing what is in front of us. The wilderness has long been depicted as a vile and godless place in works such as Young Goodman Brown, The Crucible, or The Scarlet Letter; however, in works such as Walden, Nature, and Leaves of Grass we learn that the wilderness is where we find serenity and truth.

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Interestingly, the wilderness can be seen as both something to fear and embrace, it is where the beauty of our lives reside.

Like the wilderness, life is a dichotomy of good and bad, serenity and discomfort, comfort and despair. And while many would have us believe that truth lies in the extreme positions of left and right, on and off, right and wrong, the reality is truth lies somewhere in the middle.

What makes life magical is the totality of its parts and the complexity of our journey: the highs and lows, the best and worst parts of us and our experiences.

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We are meant to be whole beings not perfect ones.

The beauty of our existence is not just in our strengths and joys, but also in the broken and fragile places of our lives.

If we are to live fulfilled lives, we must be willing to reconcile the totality of our experiences.

We must work towards excavating the layers of our lives for the moments that give us a broader and deeper understanding of self and our humanity.

Such profound truth and beauty is realized not only in the parts of our lives we cultivate in this way, but in the truth and beauty we see in those around us. Our landscape is much greater than our front yard; we need only to look beyond what is familiar and known and safe to see that our understanding is also influenced by what dwells beyond our fences.

The uncultivated, uninhabited, and unknown regions of our life are opportunities to find such beauty and truth through cultivating, inhabiting, and exploring these places with an appreciation of all that comes with truly embracing who we are in our brightest of moments as well as our darkest.

© 2016 Cyndi Piña, All Rights Reserved