Keeping Watch

My feet itched to move along the forest floor and so I followed them and wondered where they might lead.

o-tree buds

The first stop was to examine tree leaf and flower buds packed inside their waxy scales where they will remain protected from the northerly winds until a date unknown.

o-hemlock cones

Beside the red maple, Eastern hemlock cones dangled like Christmas ornaments, with woody scales of their own protecting tiny seeds tucked inside until those northerly winds might release them.

o-squirrel dinner table

Everywhere, any possible surface, particularly those a bit raised, became a red squirrel dinner table meant for dining upon this year’s abundant supply of seeds.

o-squirrel chatter 1

And everywhere I was chastised by squirrel chatter for they seemed so sure I wanted to wrestle with them for a few nibbles.

o-upper side, maze polypore

I paused beside mazed polypores, so named . . .

o-underside, maze polypore

for their maze-like underside from which they release their spores.

o-forest 2

Sometimes, my feet moved with ease despite occasional walls of evergreens–and when I encountered such, I pushed on through.

o-slash

Other times, it was over logging slash that I trudged, my feet taking a moment to choose the right balancing spot.

o-watery trail

There was even some island hopping thrown into the mix.

o-bobcat scat

At last I reached a logging road and then different sights filled my heart with hope for I knew that though I saw more than a million red squirrels and heard a variety of birds, including a ruffed grouse, these woods are filled with life (and death). Based on the size and lack of bones, I think this was bobcat scat and the meal was a white-tailed deer.

o-coyote scat

There was coyote scat, both old and new.

o-fox scat

And fox scat reflecting a recent meal–perhaps Sunday dinner.

o-bobcat tracks

And where there is scat, there are tracks–most of the time.

o-moose tracks

Today, I saw signs of bobcat, moose (more than one), deer, fox and coyote and my heart rejoiced for I love tracking season. I also love knowing that these mammals continue to share this space with me–or perhaps it’s that I share this space with them. I think the latter is more likely. I’m just a visitor.

o-ice art 2

In places, ice also offered sights worth viewing. Atop a frozen puddle, those hemlock seeds I referred to earlier had found their release and their new home–temporarily at least.

o-ice art 1

Leaves, cones and seeds intermixed with the ice and created mosaics worth framing.

o-ice art 4

And branches and seeds imitated trees in another work of natural art.

o-ice art 3

But my favorite was the red maple leaf cut-out that reminded me of Christmas cookie cutters.

Even if roaming through the woods isn’t your comfort level, I encourage you to take a few moments to step outside and look around. In this season of hope, may nature help you find wonder and through that wonder may you find peace within.

Any way you can, please join me in keeping watch.