A Regular Guest in the Guest House

Janis Boguzs

© Copyright 2021 by Janis Boguzs

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash
                                        Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

I adore being close to nature, to get away from the city's rush. Thereby I choose to go to one guest house, owned by my friends and located in the middle of a national park. There can be enjoyed everything there: relaxation beside the sea, late evenings under the stars, all spectre of flora and fauna of nearby forest and the guest house yard itself. Somehow my special feelings have grown towards some hedgehog I have encountered there. Sharing these feelings here.

I must rush… It is nearly high-noon. There has to be something. I have to be the first one, I have to be there before her. What is that? A small piece of meat? Have to taste it. What’s that taste? Sour... a vinegar… a lemon? Yammy anyway… Oh... Another piece. An onion… Tasty! No, I must rush further. I must be there the first one. A human? Let’s take a longer cut around that tree. Did he noticed me? I am safe. Let’s go… I am nearly there!” If I was able to read the minds of animals that would be something I heard from the small cute hedgehog running to the compost-heap when I first encountered him.

The compost heap is located in a guest house one central house and several smaller a bigger to accept their guests. The guest house itself is laid in the middle of nowhere for those, who are used to bigger cities. There is a small village with several old, wooden houses, but otherwise it is a beautiful country park. There are some rivers with some trout, several beaver families and ducks enjoying the water there. There are swamps with frogs, toads and snakes hiding under fallen trees, and lots of insects living their lifecycles around the swamp waters. There are forests – full of deer, does, birds and even one bear. And there is the sea close enough to hear, far enough not to see behind the trees; the sea – home for flounders, gulls, seals and the source of salt for the animals from the woods.

Still my main attention is cached by a small, cute hedgehog. Yes, exactly cute… He has a cute nose always moving for new smells… lovely eyes following the event happening around... white ears or more precisely white area around the ears contrasting his otherwise grey garment. And he is able to create so funny noises while running around the territory area looking for food. But as cute as he looks, he is well armed as well – with a cloak full of spines. Surely there is a soft skin on his belly, but he is not willing to show it to any close-comer, a spiny ball is to be met.

There is food all around the area as there are people around. They eat and drop some food on the ground. They do not eat everything, thereby throwing out some things so tasty for the hedgehog. As all the waste is recycled in that guest house, all the food waste goes right to the compost heap. So it becomes the most reliable and constant source of provisions there. All the potential diners can find there a full spectre of food there – fruits and vegetables, dairy products, egg-shells, fish and sometimes also a bit of meat.

The stock grows more during summer as there are more guests, but it does not vanish during winter as well. It might be important during a really warm winter, otherwise the hedgehog does not care. He is used to hibernate during winter finding a nice, safe and rather warm place under the central house of the guest house, which is being heated all the winter. Most likely the hedgehog uses the same cosy place also during summer as it is so out of sight of others and so close to the main source of food.

Still the life for this little creature is not always so relaxing here in this place intended for relaxation. Surely guests at the holiday home show enhanced interest in every living creature they can meet there. And it is quite understandable as the most of them come from city where they do not meet any besides their dog or pigeon on the windowsill. It is nice if they are able to limit their interest with following the hedgehog with their eyes. It is always interesting to touch, to pet the nice little creature, even with spine on its back. Surely adults commit this sin sometimes, but the smaller ones are even more interested in the life of this cute animal.

And even more – sometimes humans can be very clumsy and thereby a danger for a peaceful life of a hedgehog. Me as well. I also like to follow the activities of the hedgehog from a little distance by trying to make some photos while avoiding going too close and disturbing him. Still one encounter is something I will remember with a great regret, while hopefully the hedgehog have forgotten that after some days. To feel closer to nature, I enjoy staying in my tent in the territory of the guest house a bit away from all the rest. While going to the central house for an evening shower, I had to use my flashlight as the night was dark as the depths of the deepest ocean and even all the constellations above could not help me to avoid the trees. When I was closing to the light of the central house I decided to switch off my own light source and in that moment I tripped on something and heard sulky chugs and saw something rolling away. After turning my flashlight on again I realised it was the hedgehog I had always adored. He seemed not to be physically harmed, but continued his unsatisfied rhetoric. I still feel ashamed and endure remorse of what I have done. Even if it was unintentionally. I have seen him many times after again, so at least there was no long-term harm done.

Besides us – humans - there are some quadruped obstacles in the route intended by the hedgehog. Some of the guests do not leave their dogs in the apartment, but take them with themselves to enjoy the adventures provided by the wild nature as well. As the dogs are not used to meet somebody else than their family members – owners and probably a cat or a hamster – and most likely the pigeon sitting on the windowsill. Thankfully because of that the meeting with a hedgehog is something between a live interest and some fear of unknown, thereby it results in no touches, but a loud barking.

Another domestic animal the hedgehog might encounter is a permanent resident of the guest house – an old cat. But mostly because of her age and also because of everyday meals the cat has no interest of any other creature. Or the reason might be that the cat sees the hedgehog as another member of her family – the owners of the guest house; or just another guest. All the interaction is limited to a short look towards the direction, the hedgehog passes.

But there is another guest that might be more dangerous than the others (even more dangerous than me). It can be met more often than the guests coming from the city and a bit less often than the two-legged and four-legged creatures living or working at the guest house. It is a ruddy fox. And this fox is not only cunning, but also bold (and of course beautiful) and somewhat insolent. She has taken some bread with all the table-cloth during the half-minute the hosts were not present. I has stolen a skewer with the meat right from the grill and run away in the nearby bushes not to share it with other barbecue evening guest. She even has not been too shy to lick a mobile phone of the person, who wanted to take a photo of this evening guest. And yes, a fox is a predator, who is able to eat a hedgehog as well. But probably because of the fox’s interesting adventures to get some food it has not tried to hunt on the hedgehog. They are even capable to have a common meal in the compost heap – their regular source of provisions.

The hedgehog was not seen for all summer, so were worried for the worst. But an early autumn he showed himself again. Was he hiding from all the guests? Was he exploring the nearby and further woods? Or was he visiting his family or trying to establish a new one? We were worried before, but now we are happy to see him again. Happy, as he has become a member of our bigger family, even if nearly always keeping his distance.

I have worked in public administration, but nowadays I paint on t-shirts and other textiles. Previously I have prepared some written parts for legislative acts and scientific articles, but I have just started my way to be more creative in written form.  I live near Riga, Latvia (the European Union).

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