Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fresh Snow

30.8 degrees here on the hill. It is quiet now. The kids down the road had friends over, and there was enough new snow to make new sleds slide much faster than on yesterday's mud and leaves. The new snow, slight as it was, cleansed the landscape and gave folks the opportunity to feel differently about the winter solstice. For the kids, it was an opportunity to let voices and spirits run free.

I returned home from work today and Karl the wonder dog greeted me as always. His trot-trot-trot across the kitchen floor, eyes wide open and both ears layed back made obvious reminder to the fact that yesterday, amongst wrapping paper and ribbon, food and drink, friends and neighbors, Karl got lots of attention....and too many snacks. What he didn't get was a good walk out back through the fields and into the woods. His behavior begged "Let's go!" and I knew I was obligated.

We got in the truck and drove out into the woods as the light was fading quickly and a cold rain was falling. I wanted to get out to the white spring and park and then walk from there. Karl didn't care, walk or ride, as long as he was out with me and he could smell the smells of the forest.

The big buck's track came off Blake Hill and onto our log road. He carries a beautiful set of antlers. His front hooves, splayed widely in the snow, serve as reminder to how heavy this deer is. I was surprised to see how far he walked down the road, apparently feeling safe during the storm when he left the tracks behind.

Karl ran, stopped, sniffed, and then ran, stopped and sniffed the tracks again. Every once in a while he would blow air out his nose in a big blast, apparently bragging in dog talk about his tracking ability.

We went on for several hundred yards until we came to the old refrigerator. There was something strange about folks in the old days and out of sight meant out of mind. They often had a habit of dragging broken household items out into the woods and just discarding them. Over time, the old refrigerator has become a landmark among hunters on the Peacham property. Directions like "wait for me at the old refrigerator" or "I'll be between the refrigerator and the pulp pile" sound odd to some but in hunter speak these are clear and important directions. Fortunately the fir balsams have grown quickly in recent years and the landmark is mostly surrounded now. It still represents an animal crossing point and hopefully will forever.

Karl stopped and began sniffing a foot tall balsam. The snow was bare of footprints but it was obvious the tiny tree was recently well marked by fox or coyotes and Karl was interested. I respected his interest in the spot but a clump of snow dropping from above had hit my shoulder. It splattered inside my collar and down my neck, cold enough to want to make me move along.
Karl wouldn't budge save for his sniffer which was in overdrive.

My thoughts of feeling sorry that he didn't have a nice walk on Christmas were fading quickly. Just then a red squirrel, obviously late returning to his nest, chattered loudly from the balsam above. Karl spotted it quickly and began to yelp like a true hunter. Red squirrels are always saying something and they seem to want you to believe they own the woods and are always in charge. This one looked a little odd. It was so wet its tail looked hairless. Just the same it scolded Karl for even thinking he was important and it scurried higher and into a hole in a dead poplar tree. For Karl, that was a sign to head for home.

As we walked along the woods road, I noticed again the death within the forest. The balsams on this property have reached their age peak and they are declining. The white and red spruces appear to have some blight or insect as many do not look as healthy as I'd expect. The long needle pine are tall and wave nicely in the wind but I notice they have a blight beginning on the north side of the stand. All of the forest is in transition. Regardless, the snow lends a silence and a peace that is powerful and calming.

We got back to the truck and Karl jumped up and in. He had a nice walk. I did too, I really did!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the night is still and the storm has stopped. Soon the birds and animals of the night will shake off ice pellets and snow flakes and head out to meet friends and find some dinner.

With frosty winter thoughts....for just a day.....

George Africa


Zachary said...

i like this scenery

Carol said...

Lovely telling of your story of a simple walk with your dog. There is much to see and observe when a landscape is transformed with snow!

IBOY said...

Nice piece, George.

rusty in miami said...

Very good writing, it makes me feel like I am walking in the woods.
Happy New Year