Footprints in the Snow

A light February snow fell last night, and I am now outside on one of our paths in search of animal tracks.  They are everywhere!

We see much wildlife here at Windy Hill, but many creatures are nocturnal and we can only know of their presence by their distinctive tracks they leave in the snow the next morning.  Here, on one of our paths, literally hundreds of tracks meander through the snow-crust, left by dozens of our neighbors.  It is a sight to behold.

Deer tracks like split hearts wander up and down the hill and come up to the bottom step of our front door.  Raccoon paws, looking like infants’ hands, are found impressed in the snow around the garbage can and across the hood of the pickup.  (On the hood?  Humph!  Cheeky fellow!)  And there is the scramble of canine prints that is the telltale sign of a group of coyotes milling about in the moonlight.

Last night we were surrounded by a veritable zoo of mammals; mammals that made no sound as we sat unawares in the warmth of our home while they went about their jobs, workman-like, searching for food.

The search for food is never-ending for them.  C and I sat at the breakfast table some weeks ago and spotted a coyote wandering across the hill that looks out over the valley. C said he was a young fellow, judging by his size, so he must have been a juvenile.  In no hurry whatsoever, he strolled along the hill with his nose down, searching for a scent, when our neighbor’s rooster began to crow.  The coyote’s head rose instantly and it rotated towards the sound, and then sunk low in the grass and trotted off into the trees, straight for our neighbor’s place.  That kind of sighting is uncommon during the daylight hours; not rare, but uncommon. And a joy.

You simply do not see all the activity that normally goes on in the dark.  It is quite rare to spot some of these fellows in the dead of night when they are most active.  It is odd, for you know they actually swarm about the place.  One time last summer, I came home late from a meeting and C opened the front door to let Daisy the Wonder-dog run outside to greet me.  Just as C was reaching for the glass storm door handle, I spotted the silhouette of a skunk’s tail standing erect against the light of the open door, trotting across the lawn away from me.  I shouted, “Hold the dog!  Skunk!  Hold the dog!” and C just managed to latch onto Daisy’s collar before Wonder-dog took off after the skunk.  Daisy plunged and howled, but C held on fast.  That was a close one.

I now spot a track I do not recognize.  It’s near the cars and wanders off into the pasture, so I am stomping a footprint of my own next to it to reference its size and I am now taking a photo of it with my cell phone.  Hopefully, C can identify it.  It if is a good photo, perhaps I can use it for a blog post or something.

According to the forecast, the temperature will rise to 40°F by noon, and in a couple of hours this fantasy world of these tracks and their tales will be gone forever.  A lot like the fate of all of us, in a way.  I feel so blessed to have this moment among them and share in their lives, to share this incredible creation of God’s world.  Such a joy, such a grace.

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