OtterChristmas 1.5-ElkHeard

The hottest rumor in our neighborhood shows up on the local listserv most every morning. Someone will declare that they have family visiting and ask if anyone knows where the elk are congregating. Somebody will always respond within a minute or two. This time of year up here in the foothills, the elk watch gets more interest than the NORAD Santa Tracker. Unlike children, elk tend to be heard about but only rarely ever seen.

The Grand Otter really wants to see the elk this visit. So far, they've eluded her every attempt to spot them, though The Muse and I have seen them several times, but only when The Otter wasn't along. We cannot just rush home, grab The Otter, then head back out with any assurance of reconnecting with these critters because elk seem to possess one remarkable superpower: the ability to slip through space and time. Though these animals weigh between five and eight hundred pounds EACH, they appear and disappear with alarming fluidity.

The bulk of the herd might be spotted around sunrise only to somehow migrate miles away by mid-day. This week, The Muse and I found what seemed to be the herd down beneath the foothills grazing on the Golden golf course. The next day, they'd moved further away, mere pin points from the street. Later that day, they were spotted near the top of the foothills, nearly ten miles inland. They appear to be placidly grazing while also constantly on the move.

Yesterday, following up on the listserv report, The Otter and I completely circumnavigated the villages and settlements in the immediate area without spotting elk one. Later, clarifying the earlier report, it seemed we might have either managed to avoid the one short stretch of road where we might have spotted a few or, more likely, they'd tele-transported themselves into another galaxy between report and our search. They seem more mercurial than reindeer.

We're not giving up and staying home, though, because since she was small, The Otter has held the superpower to compel The Muse and/or I to try our damnedest to satisfy this kind of request, most of which have involved animals in one way or another. We've driven far out of our way to 'visit' a horse spotted in the distance and initiated several wild goose chases, not to mention the annual lamb-looking excursion. The mere rumor of an animal spotting's plenty of motivation for us to at least go try to look in on the proceedings.

The Otter might have gotten lost in her new camera, lost in her head, or both. Visiting last night the annual Denver Botanical Garden holiday light display, a brilliant promotion which attracts tens of thousands to pay to tour a frozen-over outside garden at night, she hardly spoke, so intently focused was she on photographically capturing the experience. Her and about ten thousand others would simply stop to fiddle with their contraption, making what might have been a stroll roughly equivalent to poling a canoe through an ice flow. Hard to port, sideways stroller ahead. I was barely able to avoid collisions, but The Otter seemed especially blessed as the surging crowd mostly just melted around her. I spent most of the excursion scanning for a clear path through the surging throng.

It's likely that The Otter will not see everything she hopes to see here. The buffalo herd huddles well out of camera range in their snowy enclosure. The elk, who could possibly know where they'll wander next? They could materialize in the side yard, as they sometimes do, or tele-transport themselves to The Bahamas for the holiday, nobody knows. We intend to keep our ears open for clues from our local jungle telegraph and follow the leads as they arrive. The Muse and I might continue to stumble into the herd only when The Otter's not along. We can't know.

Perhaps that's just the point of this whole grand experiment. We can't know. We aspire anyway. The aspiration might provide the spark life seems to require, but fulfillment seems somehow hardly critical to achieving satisfaction. Still, I'm checking the listserv, checking it twice, hoping to be the one who finally leads The Otter into what will most certainly become a picture-taking frenzy followed by some frantic OMG-quality texting, phone-calling, and Facebook posting. Her friends and family seem amazed at her adventures. We know there's a whole lot more, and, curiously, also a whole lot less behind them than might ever meet any eye.

Surprise, indeed!

©2016 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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