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Sunday, January 23, 2011

What the Snow Reveals

A walk around our property gives me a peek into the lives of the other residents with whom we share our outdoor space. Their stories are written in the snow, but I’m only slightly familiar with the language, and thus can only guess at the authors and their meaning.

Walk with me:

My dogs have provided some insight; their tracks offer clues to figuring out other trails that I encounter. Lilah of the short legs can only leap through the snow, leaving sproing prints in her path. Depth doesn't matter to Lilah; it barely slows her down.

Jasper joins in, following Lilah. His long moose legs drag though the drifts, even when he's running.  A smart (and admittedly lazy) boy, Jasper will run in Lilah's path, so he doesn't have to work quite as hard.
A walk in the woods behind my house uncovers evidence that the foxes have returned to den here. With legs shorter than Lilah's, a fox bounds through the snow as well, leaping over logs, searching for food.
When the snow is not quite as deep, foxes leave more doglike prints. Here, a fox is using one of our makeshift bridges to cross a creek.
Up close, it's easier to see the fox paw impressions.
Squirrels make it easy to read their trails; their large hind paws and tiny handlike forepaws are an open book, particularly when the trail leads to or from a large tree trunk. The squirrels stay busy in the winter, proving to me that they actually do look for dinner in places other than my convenient squirrel--oops, I mean bird--feeders.
Deer, with long legs like Jasper, drag their feet through the snow; about a half-dozen of them have created a trail among the trees.
A tiny creek poses little challenge to Bambi and his friends, who leap over fences and across brooks with ease. Surefooted, the deer show no signs of slipping and sliding on either bank. It's not much of a challenge for the mind's eye to recreate the balletic grace of the animals--almost riding the air from one side to the other.
Up close, a deer print is somewhat obvious, as it is the only hoofed creature that lives in the neighborhood.
The deer in our woods are more numerous than squirrels; only a day after a fresh snowfall, there are so many overlapping trails that it's a bit of a challenge to try to figure out who went where, when, and with whom.
Of course, my walk through the woods also leaves a trail; perhaps snow shoes would have made the jaunt a tad less of a slog.
By my patio, where my dozen or so birdfeeders hang, I can tell the ground feeding birds have been very busy, hopping about and scratching through the snow for the seed I've scattered.
The heated bird bath (what bird wouldn't want a hot tub in the winter?) gives everyone a taste of fresh water to wash down the sunflower and thistle seeds, millet, suet and peanut butter offered in the daily buffet.
In the front yard, I was a little puzzled by a tiny trail of prints that travel lightly over my perennials. Like the elf Legolas (see Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein) who could walk on top of the snow, the maker of these tracks travels on gentle feet.  It is probably one of my neighbor's cats, who are known to prowl through my landscaping.
Below you can barely see the prints weaving through the plants toward the back.
Sometimes I can only guess at the writer of the glyphs in the snow.  A bird? A mouse? 
And Jasper and Lilah add their own chapters to the snow stories. Below is a tale of two friends playing; with a squint and a little imagination, I see a heart drawn with paws.
The stories unfold in front of me, and then disappear underneath a new blanket of fresh snow, or melt away in the sun. A moment in time for our local residents is captured and revealed for me to guess an interpretation: a simple gift of the winter.

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