Down East 2013 ©
We are not yokels here in Maine. We read books and keep abreast of current events and speak an advanced form of English. If only we dressed in black, you could drag us to swell parties all over the Isle of Manhattan and we would not embarrass ourselves.
And yet we are people who live among moose .
Now, there are Mainers who never see a moose — not ever — despite having lived here since roughly Colonial times. There are others (I among them) who see moose all the time. Everywhere we turn, another moose. We go for a drive, moose are blocking the road. We wake up at night, a moose is decapitating our Prunus pensylvanica. (We have plenty, so we go back to sleep.)
Why this should be so — that some Mainers are moose-deprived while others are moose-haunted — defies conventional explanation. One leading hypothesis — that those of us in Category 2 were actually moose ourselves, in a former life — has been ridiculed by humorless academics. This has caused leading experts (by which I refer mainly to myself) to flirt with the Bokonite  Hypothesis: that we and moose belong to the same karass. We have, in hard scientific terms, a cosmic bond.
When I moved here, I was not prepared for so much moosiness. To be honest, I was expecting deer .
In the largely uncivilized territory to the west and south of us (known for convenience as the United States of America) it is the custom to be plagued by deer. Gardeners in particular find themselves targeted by these evil  (though photogenic) long-legged rodents. My sister-in-law in Virginia has been driven to surround herself, at great expense, I imagine, with a giant wire fence so that her property looks like a prison camp.
In Maine we have deer, too, and I guess they must live on something. But the great difference, I think, is that we also have natural predators such as coyotes and bog monsters  and gentlemen with gun racks in their pickup trucks. Deer have been no problem in any Maine garden I've had. My son Tristan spotted a pair out back one day at the edge of the wetland. They spotted him as well, and booked it. Perhaps, like the citizens of Camden, they're afraid of teenagers.
Moose on the other hand fear nothing, from what I can tell. They tromp through my yard when it pleases them. One ate a whole hawthorn bush, thorns and haws and all. It ignored the beach plum four feet away and the yellow-leaved red-twig dogwood next to that. Those I would have missed more.
Last winter a moose discovered one of my bamboos. I take pride in growing bamboo here, in such an unlikely habitat. This particular species, Phyllostachys nuda , has been with me for several years, growing (in more shade than it likes) to a height of seven or eight feet and arching gracefully toward the neighbor's septic field, which it aspires someday to clog. In winter I bow the canes down gently but sternly and weight them with evergreen boughs. This keeps the leaves green so they can spotted and eaten, along with most of the canes, by some passing Bullwinkle.
The sight of a moose outside your back door can be dramatic, the first time or two. Especially if it has those big fuzzy things on its head and is taller than your teenage son and longer than your car. The feeling of awe is not mutual. Moose (of any size) appear to find us humans among the most banal of life forms. Maybe they're jaded. Maybe they scorn us on symbolic grounds, as living embodiments of what the natural world has come to.
Another time, a pair of rambunctious mooselings woke me at four in the morning, clattering outside my window like my son's friends when they're trying to be furtive. I stumbled out of bed to investigate and there they were, close enough to hatch a conspiracy with. They paused in whatever no-good thing they were up to while I rushed for the camera. Thus I obtained two shocking images of glowing green eyeballs against a black backdrop — proof positive that these are creatures of darkness with eating disorders who pose a threat to traditional marriage. I'm not sure how they do this, but apparently traditional marriage is so fragile  that even creatures more banal than moose have got it on the ropes.
My P. nuda has survived. It's got five healthy new canes growing madly, like teenagers.
Coming soon: flying squirrels and political correctness.