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My family took the opportunity of a recent trip to Oregon to revisit the cold, gray beaches where we grew up. My niece spotted the rolling mass of waves from afar and asked: “Get in it? My feet?” and her parents were happy to comply, while the baby kept warm with my own parents. My brothers ran away to explore in the mist.

A few weeks later, we re-gathered to watch the Perseids. Ever since I’ve been little, I’ve watched the Perseids in August. This time, I drove up to my parent’s property out on the edge of the country — quite literally, I’ve walked the six miles to Canada from their house — where there were no city lights, not even a glimmer of them. When it got dark, we spread out blankets over a tarp and looked for shooting stars. My niece, 26 months old, snuggled with her parents until it was time for her to go to sleep. She didn’t want to go inside, and as they carried her, she let out a sob: “Goodnight, stars.”

As I lay out there in the yard, now relatively alone, I started wondering if the cougar was nearby.

A couple of weeks ago, my 18-year-old brother was out for a walk with a girl. They had meandered down to the pond and started up a hill when Isaiah spotted a dead fawn. And then another. And then a doe. And then, out of the corner of his eye amidst this carnage, Isaiah saw the cougar.

The girl let out a scream, turned, and ran. Note: this is not what you are supposed to do when you spot a lethal cat. Isaiah knew this, but he wasn’t going to let this girl go running away alone, like in some bad horror movie. So he ran after her. She fell down. He pulled her up and they kept going. They made it to the house and the cougar had not eaten them.

When it was day, several of us set out to see the site of the cougar’s kills. The deer had decayed, half-eaten, mummifying in the sun. We paused over one of the fawns. Poor little thing, it didn’t look very big. My niece stared down at it for awhile and then asked her parents: “I eat it?”

Her parents bit their lips to keep from laughing at her. “No, that’s not for eating,” they said. We walked back up to the house and ate chicken grilled over apple and mesquite wood instead.

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