The Mountain Lion Game

October 4, 2008

Thirteen years ago, a mountain lion looked at me. I still see clearly its long sleek body, two hundred yards away on a bare hilltop.

Suzame and I were hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore in California and had reached the highest point, Mt. Wittenberg. At first I thought the mountain lion was a big dog, but the tail and graceful gait said otherwise. It stopped and stared at us, and I began to consider our options if it headed toward us. After a very long minute, the beast padded away.

We told this story to our son, Atticus, who’s now three. Every time he goes to the park at the Irvington School up the street, he insists on climbing “the mountain” (a big dirt pile) and re-enacting the event. This evening the three of us tromped up the hill four times and acted out the drama, including going to the ranger station and filling out a report. As usual, Atticus directed the action, sometimes telling us what to say.

I have this weird feeling that he’ll be in his twenties and insist I hobble on my cane to the top of the dirt pile and recite my lines. By then I should have my mock fear honed to Academy-Award perfection.

Or perhaps he’ll remember nothing and give us quizzical looks when we tell him of our game. One of life’s inequities is losing the memory of early childhood. For our boy, it’s a time best described as a state of grace.

If only it could last.