Reading The Stories Of Winter

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Most afternoons, we venture into the woods. It is the dogs favorite part of the day… and ours too! With the icy conditions along the nursery footpaths and along the road, the deep woods offer better footing at the moment. Traveling ground that keeps us upright is not the only reason we tuck into the forest every day. Aside from the peace and serenity the woods provide, it’s also the track stories we can read along the way that call us into the wild. In our absence, perhaps while we lay fast asleep, many of the wild critters who stay active during Maine’s harsh winter are out prowling or foraging in search of food, and in doing so they have left their travel stories in the snow. As we hike toward Kingdom pond through a mixture of both coniferous and deciduous trees, cross over an old lumber clearing, and arrive at a grove of mature hemlock, the animal activity is laid out before us in a network of foot patterns. Coyote and fox travel with their intentional, business-like gait, leaving well-defined canine tracks behind. Snowshoe hare bound from one thicket to another, their large paddle-like back feet leaving imprints out beyond their front feet. Mice move from stump to stump leaving their slight tail dragging marks. Turkeys have left evidence from their searching for acorns under an oak tree, the snow trampled and flattened, looking as though a square dance had taken place. Deer tip toe across the coyote tracks, carefully heading in the opposite direction, their heart-shaped hoof prints leaving their mark. Of course, the dogs go mad with all the smells and freedom and cover over many of the tracks before we reach them. By the time we arrive at the pond, we have added our own foot travels to the mix. We can see where that lone fox has kept going, his thoughts on distant shores, his determined trail leading out across the ice. Maybe a meal or a warm den awaits him on the other side. I hope he finds both.