Winter’s Last Gossip Columns in the Snow

The coyote or the wolf was here.

We had two day of blizzards, temperatures in the minus double digits and a massive pileup of cars and tractor trailers on the highway due to the vengeful return of winter. Now the sun is out, warming us through the windows and bouncing off the blindingly white snow as though nothing happened.  My passive solar heater is whirring its little heart out, heating up the house to almost balmy.  Seeing the outside temperature creep above freezing I decided to pull on my woollies and hike back to the woods through what may be the last of the winter white.

Walking through snow in the country is like walking over a gossip column.  All the local scoop is there.  I could see where the small birds had landed in search of seeds. The bunnies had cavorted, perhaps in the moonlight, in an opening among the cedars.  Lots of squirrel tracks daringly dashing from tree to tree.  Field mice left tiny trails as they sped from snow tunnel to snow tunnel where they hide, hoping the fox or the owl won’t hear and pounce. Dainty fox tracks show where Madame Red Fur paused and paused again, listening and hoping.

Running stream through the woods. Stay back or cracking ice will dump you in.

Of course, the deer had been out.  Hoof prints across the fields and on both sides of the fences.  A fence is nothing to a deer except an annoying barbed wire obstacle to hop over.  And in among the deer tracks, the canine trails where the coyotes and wolves had been checking out the meal possibilities. Their tracks crisscross the deer prints, both so fresh I have no idea who got there first.

In the woods, the ditch is full and running, making a dark channel through the trees.  Elsewhere, ice spreads among the trunks, frozen enough under the snow that it makes walking through the woods much like a stroll across a table, flat and convenient.  But get too near the running water and you hear the ominous cracking underfoot. Get back or get soaked to the knees is the cheerful message.

In the open pasture, patches of old grass are already starting to show. It’s about the last day, I suspect, the pristine white newspaper will be there to read even for those with no trace of woodcraft. Official spring is a few days away.  The pond will thaw yet again, the ducks will splash down in flocks, and we’ll all become unwilling connoisseurs of sticky mud, wet feet and reappearing roadside trash.

Or we could get another whopping blizzard in April.  Winter hates to leave without a parting blow.



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