Mid-morning found me slipping into my smiling place where I decided to follow a route I usually save for snowshoe season.
I know it will come eventually, but the realization that we can’t predict when the first snowstorm will arrive or how much snow we’ll get over the course of the year reminded me that nature is never static.
I, for one, am looking forward to snow and hoping for lots of it because it will be so much easier to make my way through this boggy area.
In the meantime, I focused my attention on the ground–checking each step as I went. It’s easy to get caught on the slash the logger left behind. And when I looked down, I noticed things I don’t get to see once the white stuff falls, like the creeping snowberry that grows abundantly here.
Pausing frequently to look around, I suddenly noticed I had company.
The curious thing–this sharp-shinned hawk slowly made its way east, while further down the trail
a flock of birds chitted and chatted as they moved among the tree tops.
An ever curious chickadee landed nearby to check me out. And visa versa.
A goldfinch sporting its winter coloration also paused to peek. Lucky for all of them, the hawk was headed away rather than closer. Maybe it had already feasted.
Eventually I found mud. I LOVE mud. With each step it squelches and squerches as it sucks my boots in and I pull them out. (And takes me back to Clinton Harbor at low tide, where my father always insisted that people paid millions of dollars to sink their feet in mud.)
The beauty of mud here in western Maine is that prints are well defined and easily identified–homo sapien, female, average height and weight, just over middle age, blue eyes–wait a second. I wish I could read that much information in the prints I find, but I’m satisfied to be able to identify the animal to species.
Reaching into my pocket, I discovered I had my trusty six-inch ruler–left there since early spring. It helps to give perspective of a print–in this case a coyote. Middle toes parallel, nails leaning inward, 2 inches across, x-shaped ridge between toes and heel pad.
I love it when nature happens side-by-side. Coyote on the left and bobcat on the right. The coyote had passed this way more recently, when the ground was softer and moved through quickly as evidenced by the slide into position. The classic C of the bobcat’s ridge between toes and pad is clearly visible.
Moose frequent the area and I’m not sure if this is the same one passing to and fro or two different moose. It’s obvious that the first print was made as the animal moved in the direction of the ruler and the second shows the moose moving away.
And then there was the deer that decided to change directions. Did it hear the mighty hunter coming along? Or another predator? Maybe me, though I suspect these prints were fresh last night and not this morning.
The other thing about mud–combined with ice it becomes nature’s artwork.
Sometimes it sits upon icy pedestals begging to be noticed.
And ice itself is ever forming, ever changing. That’s the thing about nature. It isn’t static. Nor am I. Growing. Evolving. Seeking. And thankful for the opportunity.