Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Little Raccoon Story

This week, for Did You Know? Thursday, we'll be exploring a little something called the raccoon.

We've all seen them: those incredibly intelligent-looking eyes; the very human habit of washing their food before they eat it; and those curiously adept paws. Almost no one I know can look at a raccoon picture without making an "Awwwww!" noise so enthralled, you'd think the raccoon came with a laugh track.
But we're not here to make you make noises. We're here to shed a little light on nature. Today's Did You Know? fact is on etymology: The raccoon's name comes from the Algonquin name for raccons, ahrah-koon-em. It means, literally, the one who rubs, scrubs, and scratches with his hands.
This makes sense, after all. Raccoons do almost everything with their front paws. And when you see them "washing" their food in the water? Well, it's been posited that that's another way for the raccoon to "see" its food, get a better sense of what shape it is, what kind of texture it is, much as a dog feels with his mouth, or we humans feel with our own hands.
Those dexterous paws! [Photo courtesy of alasam's flickr stream.]

So. Yes, we're happy we got to post cute photos, but what's the point? Well, all animals sense things in their own ways. You might think that we humans appreciate nature primarily by sight, but now that things are blooming and so much is happening around us, it's a good idea to exercise your other senses.
Your sense of smell is the strongest of all of your senses, believe it or not. Think about it: Don't you have great memories built entirely around smells from when you were a kid? Now's a great chance to give your child some memories that go way beyond what he or she sees.
One great way to do this is to take your child on a night-time walk in a park, or on a walk in the woods.
Pick a night with a full moon, stick to well-marked, clear paths, and enjoy the show. Keep it short, so no one gets scared--but turn out the flashlights, let everyone's night vision adjust, and just see what you can hear, sense, experience. No pun intended.
You'll find that there's a lot more to nature than you might have thought.
The last time your Miss did this, she spotted a raccoon sitting in the lower branches of a tree, looking right back at her.

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