On My Knees, Preying

The past week was unusually hot. I like summer, but 38°C/100°F is a little too warm for me. So I’ve been getting up at 6:00 AM to pick veggies and water the garden. It’s gorgeous outside at that time: The sun is just coming up, the air is cool and fresh, and the only sounds are the birds and the trickle of the creek.

Coincidentally, there was a recent news article about how the bear population is exploding on Vancouver Island. Bears are now regularly seen in residential areas where there’s no record of a bear being spotted in the past 40 years. So big hungry critters were in the back of my mind when I hauled myself out of bed a few days ago and opened all the windows.

I was sitting at the breakfast table when a blood-curdling cry froze me to my chair. It was close. Somewhere in our yard.

After a moment of breathless immobility, I relaxed. The ravens were flapping around as usual. They have a huge range of vocalizations, so I figured one of them must have gotten creative. I carried on with my breakfast.

But only for another minute or two, until the terrible cry came again, even louder. The ravens fled. And my primitive lizard-brain screamed, “COUGAR!”

A couple of years ago, a big cougar came right up on our neighbours’ deck; so we definitely have cougars in the area. I scurried over to the internet and looked up ‘cougar vocalizations’. Sure enough, cougars make a lot of different noises; and some of them sounded just like what I’d heard.

No way was I going to kneel out in the garden like prey when there was a big predator around. But where was it? I hurried from window to window, peering out. Nothing. Then I went through our attached garage to look north.

As I eased the door open and cautiously stuck my head out, a Great Blue Heron took off from our pond with an irritable squawk.

Yep, it turns out that cougar cries and close-range heron squawks sound remarkably similar.

So I did my garden duties after all, and my week turned out fine. I hope yours does, too — may all your scary cougars turn out to be harmless herons!

Book 17 update: The draft is FINISHED, woohoo! The title will be Live And Let Spy. I’m editing madly, and I hope to hand it off to my first beta reader next week. Stay tuned for cover art and a release date, coming soon!