For almost thirty years I’ve roamed this particular wood and for the most part you’ve eluded me.
Oh, I’ve seen you cross the field. And heard your snort in the distance.
You’ve taught me to recognize your old prints by their figure-eight or egg-timer resemblance and heart-shaped fresh impressions.
Your depth compared to mine has been another indicator of your identification.
Occasionally I’ve stumbled upon your beds, old and fresh, and recognized them as places where you take a rest in the middle of the day or night.
I’ve learned to examine said beds for artifacts left behind including wisps of tubular hair meant to insulate.
And always, your calling card includes scat and urine.
Above the scat at a height only you can reach, you tag the trees with mini flags after ripping off their buds with your lower incisors yanking against that toothless upper palate.
After finding so many signs year after year, today . . . today I spied an uprooted tree at the very spot I thought might be a good place to stop and spend a few hours in silence. As I made plans to do such in the near future, the tree moved.
And transformed into you!
You looked at me. I looked back in complete awe.
And while I thought we were having a staring contest, I later realized you continued to feed as I continued to photograph you.
Standing beside you and way more interested in dining that wondering about me, your yearling.
Our time together lasted ten minutes. Or was it twenty?
Who knows? Who cares? What mattered was that in this woodland that has served as my classroom for all these years, you showed that your priorities had everything to do with food and nothing to do with me.
Thankfully, or so it seemed, my presence didn’t interrupt your dining for I know that in winter tree buds and bark offer some sustenance, but still you loose weight at a time when you most need it, especially if you are expectant.
When at last you and your youngster departed, despite your sizes, it was as if you walked through the forest in silence. My every move comes with a sound like a bull in a china shop, but you . . . Alces alces, you weigh over one thousand pounds, stand six feet at your shoulder, and move through the forest like a ghost. For that reason and because you let me spend some time with you today, February 11 will henceforth mark the day that I celebrate the Ghost of the North Woods.
This post is dedicated to my grand-nephews: Andrew, Finnegan, and Maxy Moose. I trust they will someday meet my moose or their own.