Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Flashback 2: The secret lives of animals

We miss much of what goes on here between the hours of sundown and sunrise. Animals go about their secret lives, leaving little trace behind that they have passed through. We are not totally unaware that we share their land. They may wake us up, especially if they find their way onto the roof and play tag in the wee hours of the morning, or get into a fight, or decide to engage in a noisy mating ritual.

There are no secrets, however, after it snows. In the morning when the sun comes up, all sorts of goings-on are revealed, but many mysteries remain.

A rabbit comes come out of the field and moves diagonally across the yard by the barn.

Or more than one rabbit. Birds are everywhere, or perhaps this is the trail of a mouse.

A deer moves out from under the pine tree near the forsythia bush and stops to nibble on the shoots.

The snow is dotted here and there with reddish blotches. Plums or berries... or...?

Crisscrossing the yard is the trail our kitty. Or perhaps this was left by one of the feral toms who includes our land in his territory and occasionally cruises by to terrorize our cat if she happens to be outside.

The opossum has amazing feet, which don't show up so clearly in the photo...

its front paws are almost like little hands, with pink fingers.

The tracks in the snow don't last very long. And as the snow deteriorates, the prints get larger and larger, until it is a mountain lion meandering down the driveway instead of a 7 pound kitty.

Mud is a good revealer of secrets, too. In some parts of the country, Arizona, Utah, and other places, fossilized prints of dinosaurs that walked in the mud can be found. One wonders how those footprints were turned into fossils.

Some years back, a raccoon left his footprints in a thick deposit of silt left behind after a heavy rainfall eroded the newly landscaped highway right of way up the hill from our house and re-created the small river that had flowed down from the highway and on to the watershed that courses through town. I was still cleaning the dentist office then, and I called and asked him if I could have a bit of the plaster they use to make molds of peoples' mouths. He said, yes.

So I got some and made some plaster casts of the footprints. I had never done it before, so they didn't turn out as good as they could have. I almost sent them to my nieces for Show-and-Tell at school, but then I considered they were probably too old for Show-and-Tell, and so I changed my mind. And then I realized I wasn't absolutely sure this was a raccoon, it could have been a possum. In any event, they remain among the odds and ends on my bookshelf that I look at and remember.

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Loved your post. We like to look at the snow (we have a foot of it at present) as it tells us whether or not a fox is prowling round our hen house.