Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26: Tracks

Although we've seen a dusting of snow the past couple of days--we got our white Christmas--the white stuff that encrusts our lawn is far from pristine. Our tiny yard is littered with twigs, branches, bark, and other detritus. Some bare patches reveal a layer of crisp brown oak and maples leaves, an earthy cake under that stale frosting. We've tromped a path from the back step to the shed. And all around, the regular indentations of animals tracks meander through the snow.

It doesn't take a skilled tracker to figure out what's traveled through our yard. In the front, some big canine paw prints reveal where a walked dog strayed from the sidewalk. A series of smaller holes, following a purposeful path along the fence line into the backyard, record the visit of the neighbor's cat. I've observed him treading that very route in all seasons, sometimes several times a day. He follows the edge of the backyard to the shed, then ducks beneath the building, where I think he hangs out for awhile before continuing on his way through the south end of the neighborhood. Unaware of property deeds and surveys, he knows very well the perimeters of his territory, which he patrols vigilantly. After every storm I note this same pattern of tracks in the fresh snow.

In the backyard, besides the feline border patrol, squirrels leave the light marks of their daily explorations. Around the dead tree stump where I sometimes leave old vegetables, some deeper imprints reflect high activity when the snow was soft. Like rabbits, squirrels hop. Their paired prints--the bigger back feet landing ahead of their smaller front feet--engrave the snow all over the backyard. Sometimes I'll also see where they dug into snow seeking some long-remembered acorn. And if I went back there and looked carefully along the edge of the trees, I might even see the tracks of yesterday's duck visitors, though ducks tread lightly.

Snow's an open book
telling a simple story:
habits, hunger, quest.

No comments:

Post a Comment