It’s been a quiet evening. I’ve been sitting in the living room, drinking tea, watching a movie, playing Words with Friends. And now, it has happened without fanfare or warning: the unmistakable, slow-rising, scent of . . . skunk.
I have learned that skunks are indigenous to the Vineyard. Like a lot of people, they seem to like it here. There once was a campaign to name the species the island’s official bird. Don’t know how that worked out.
They’re bigger than most birds. Up to 18 pounds. My research says they’re born blind, and that they wind up with lousy eyesight but terrific hearing. So, if they can’t see the cars coming on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road—especially around dawn or dusk—you’d think they at least could hear them soon enough to get the heck out of the way. It would help avoid snarky answers to the riddle: “What’s black and white and red all over?”
As someone who spent years in western Massachusetts, not far from active farms, I am no stranger to nature’s scents. (Think dairy cows.) Sometimes your eyes sting so badly it’s easy to forget that it’s organic, so it must be good for us.
I’m not sure how much good the skunks are, though, especially since they are primary predators of the honeybee. If we had fewer skunks on the Vineyard, perhaps we’d solve the problem of global bee extinction.
The whole time I’ve been writing this, the aroma has grown stronger. I’m not sure where the culprit is: my backyard, across the street, maybe in the village. Like the sounds of the waves, the scent can carry.
I’ve actually only seen a few live ones. Once while I was on a restaurant patio a big one casually waddled past as if he were one of the waitstaff. Another time I was walking to my car and, apparently, so was Pepe.
I hold no grudge against the skunks, and feel a little sad to learn that their lifespan is a mere two to three years. Which is probably a sign that I’ve adapted to my environment, and that, like them, I like it here.
I think I’ll make more tea now; maybe play another game. And I really should close the window. Maybe that will help.