YOU MAY NOT know this, but there isn’t one gosh darned moose in all of California, nor has there ever been — not even a lone straggler that wandered down from Idaho for a weekend fishing trip on the Sacramento River. This troubles me.
When the local paper reported a brown bear sighting in downtown Redding some time back, I was elated. There hasn’t been a grizzly in California since the 1920s. Where there are grizzlies, there are often moose, and if one species can spontaneously spring back into existence, just maybe, well, anyway.
She was wrong. The bear was actually a black bear.
When you draw a bear, you don’t usually grab the black crayon from the box; you grab the brown one. And that’s just what happened: the reporter obviously grew up coloring her bears with the brown crayon, and so naturally the headline reflected this — and she was kind of correct, as far as colors in the crayon box go.
Just to be clear, though, brown bear and grizzly refer to the same bear, and then there are black bears, a different bear. Here in the sunshine state we have black bears, although if you ask me they aren’t really black; they’re brown, but a darker brown than the brown bears.
Moose are brown and sometimes so are pianos. My piano is a sable brown, which is fancy talk for mahogany. When the moon is hanging high in the sky and the window blind in the family room is rolled up, there’s just enough moon glow in the house that you could, just almost, mistake my piano for a black bear and throw your arms over your head and run out the door screaming.
Of course, if you run outside in the middle of the night where we live, you may encounter a real bear — or possibly a cougar or a pack of hungry bush bunnies — and have a much more serious problem on your hands.
But it’s my guess that some folks would rather take their chances on the outdoor wildlife than endure an evening with the indoor wildlife of the rascally old piano variety.
SO, WHAT’S THE deal with moose, and how the heck do they relate to piano and Bach? I’m honestly not quite sure, but I do know that when I chose Moose Notes for the name of my website a few years ago, I understood the moose part of the name (that was easy), and notes really just referred to my work as an aspiring writer — but Baroque music and piano were as alien to me as potato crops on Mars.
And then I read The Martian and turned back to page one and started all over again, and just like that I was obsessed with Martian tubers — and then the piano thing happened, and not long thereafter I became a student of Johann Sebastian Bach, and suddenly notes got layered up with a whole new meaning.
More will be written about this over time, but the basics of the moose story goes like this: One day in the early 1990s, when I was a log cabin dweller in Alaska and working in a nice bookstore that specialized in used books — one of several bookstores I’ve had the pleasure of working in over the years — a grumpy customer narrowed her eyes at me and said, “You, my dear, are as awkward as a moose in a bottle shop.”
It was a rather horrifying thing to be told by someone you didn’t know, especially in front of your colleagues and with a line of customers behind her. My face turned red hot on that freezing cold day, and I stuttered my way through the rest of her transaction, and then I quickly donned my winter gear, shoved some books and my uneaten lunch in my panniers, and hopped on my trusty mountain bike and took the long way home on some dog mushing trails.
Moose were always creatures that intrigued me. When my only path to the outhouse was blocked by a mama moose and her two calves that winter, I ran inside my cabin and grabbed my camera and snuck some photos while they dug around in the snow with the hope of finding some hidden rosehips and highbush cranberries. But I had never considered just why I was drawn to them until I was humiliated by that woman and pondered what she had meant.
Moose are kind of gangly with their long limbs and extender snouts, and men moose have those huge velvety antler things known as racks. I was long-limbed and gangly, but my snout was just fine, and I didn’t have a rack of any kind on my person — although my head was larger than usual and kind of orbed in the back, so there was that. When I was in third grade, some dumb boy told all his friends I was the Elephant Man and pointed at my head and laughed.
I now know that I have Asperger’s syndrome and am on the autism spectrum and that my larger head size is characteristic of autistics but not necessarily the norm. Over two decades ago, though, as a young woman in my early twenties, I was udderly clueless as to why I was so darn different. There’s gobs and tons more to share about this, of course, but the lowdown is that I came to adore moose — and not in a cartoonish Bullwinkle or National Lampoon way, but as something very dear and special to me.
These awkward creatures of the forest are me on stilts and hooves, and I love everything about them. And as you will come to see in forthcoming essays, I suppose moose really do make sense sidled up against my piano and Bach. This is only just now beginning to come together and reveal itself to me, so more will indeed be shared in due time.
FOR YEARS I quietly observed the human species. I made notes on social behaviors and expectations, fashion and makeup, and all those other dastardly nuances of how to be the person everyone feels I’m supposed to be — and truth be told I’m still rather stumped.
The male segment of that species confounds me too, despite having now resided with one such specimen for over four years.
So I’m done with all the pretending. I’m different and different is okay, and I think my writing reflects this. The archive of mental notes I’ve taken over the years on human behavior and how to blend with the general population have been tossed on the burn pile, and I can only conclude that I was reared by Homo sapiens but spawned by moose.
This would explain a lot.
See you next Sunday, folks. You can’t post a comment here, but you’re more than welcome to send me a note, and please do share my essays with your friends.
Thanks for your eyeballs!