Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter's Whispers

This winter's snow has created a white canvas for our resident mammals, large and small, to leave a drawing of their wanderings. Until the thaw of this week, the snow sparkled under clear blue winter days. The soft snow revealed many snowshoe hare tracks meandering between and under young growth, shrubs, and fallen trees on nearby conservation land, one of our favorite places to snowshoe and walk. Fox and coyote trails followed the hare. The dainty trail of the deer mouse emerges from a depression around a sapling or fallen tree. Many gray squirrel tracks crisscross our yard, from the woods to the feeders. A single red squirrel visits the feeder sporadically.

Sunday's thaw followed by Monday's freeze hardened the snow, subverting for now seeing any new animal tracks. During my walk in mid-afternoon yesterday -- one of those bright winter days, cold with a slight breeze, the air crisp and alive -- I shifted my attention from the ground to the woods and sky. Winter is spare, but not silent. I stood still listening to winter's whispers. The dry, bronze beech leaves, hanging firm into winter, maybe to deter deer from browsing their twigs, rustle in the gentle breeze. The red maples creak. A soft tapping of a downy woodpecker and a nasal yank by the white-breasted nuthatch. The white pines whispering above them all.

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