Sunday, January 31, 2010

October Raccoon

Shortly after I'd decided to go ahead with the Useless Creatures project, Steph and I were driving home, probably from class, when she spotted something dead lying on the side of the road. Intrigued, we circled past the animal again, and saw that it was a raccoon. There wasn't a good place to park, but luckily, we weren't far from our apartment complex (and, besides, I needed to grab my camera). It was a sunny-but-chilly October afternoon, as they tend to be in the Upper Peninsula, and we both felt rather awkward walking down a street with no sidewalks, past gossiping teenagers, with the intent to photograph a dead animal.

The raccoon was freshly-dead, lying upon a bed of fallen leaves in the gutter. It was on its side, mouth slightly open, most of its face obscured by colorful leaves. It was beautiful. Wary of passing cars, I photographed the raccoon. I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I would had I encountered it today; at the time, I was very careful about photographing dead animals, especially in plain view of other people. It's particularly uncomfortable and awkward when doing so in a residential neighborhood -- and I'm still very cautious about it now.

I still can't get over how beautiful this animal was. I was especially interested in its feet, having never really viewed raccoon feet up-close before. The toes were long and furry, each with a curved claw at the end, and the footpads were dark, leathery, and hairless, almost human-like. The face was very whiskery; I'd never thought of raccoons has having so many whiskers.

October Raccoon was the animal that truly kick-started the Useless Creatures project. Prior to photographing it, I had found only April Deer and June Gull Chick, neither of which I'd photographed with the Useless Creatures mindset. After having found October Raccoon, I began finding an almost overwhelming number of dead creatures, especially in October and November.

About a week after photographing the raccoon, and after a week of watching the body languish on the side of the road, Steph took the extra step of moving it off the pavement and into the tall grass a few feet away. Right now, if it is still where we left it, the body is currently under a few feet of snow and ice. We are anxious to see what October Raccoon will look like in a few months, when the snow begins to melt.

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