Chablis, Owl, Cathedral
It’s been so long since a human came near to this place that the animals here have never seen one. A rabbit nibbles on clover nestled in the grass, hopping closer to the cathedral. A pair of lemmings scamper over the granite seeking grass and sedges that have grown up inside the sanctuary. Winter is coming and they will soon be mating. The rabbit lifts his ears and eyes, keeping watch for predators on this chilly September afternoon.
The ruins are made of granite blocks. They are crumbling and have fallen down; corners cracked and separated, the ceiling and roof gone a century ago. Some protected surfaces still have a polish, although these are few. All the rabbit knows is that winter is coming, the rock is cold, and he is exposed. A lone Snowy Owl sleeps in a tree high above, he has no idea that since 1987 he has been the avian emblem of Quebec and would not care if he did. A recent storm brought him too far south; he is resting and working his way north and home to the Arctic Circle for the winter. Food is yet plentiful this far south; lemmings, squirrels and rabbits are still out and about everywhere. The rabbit does not see him but is safe, the owl has eaten recently.
Grey clouds move slowly overhead, already heavy and threatening snow. They travel from the north, heading south across the Quebec side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The waters of the gulf are steel grey and choppy as far as the eye can see. The old ruins are on top of a cliff, facing the gulf. There used to be a road leading out to a village a few miles away, the road like the village is vague history now. Who were the ancient settlers? There is no clue; nothing is left but the ancient foundation and part of a wall, covered with a Chablis colored lichen that the caribou eat during the winter to survive.
A young moose moves out of the protective ring of trees and wanders over to the ruins to inspect, always safe with mother nearby. She too turns her eyes skyward, to the clouds and the wind and the salt spray. Her hooves clatter on the granite; waking the owl and making the smaller animals freeze. Mother snorts from the bushes – don’t make noise, it’s time to go.
The young moose rejoins her mother; they melt away quietly into the woods. The rabbit hops off to his den, the sun is going down and the storm is nearly upon them. The first flakes of snow begin to fall. For now, the animals too have abandoned the cathedral.