Saturday, February 14, 2009
At night it becomes a different world outside. Now in the winter, especially, the tracks left in the snow tell a story about what happens after darkness falls, to those who care to try and read them. I study the impressions and try to imagine the creatures that left them. There are tunnels and little narrow trails weaving through the yard, which I guess are from shrews; tiny, fuzzy, brown animals that resemble mice with stubbed tails. Rabbit prints are everywhere and deer tracks are easy to spot. Not as easy to decipher are the ones that look like little hands pressed into the snow...raccoon or opossum?
One morning, not long ago we found a pile of gore and entrails left behind the garage. It was apparently all that was left of a rabbit.
There is a big hawk that hunts in our neighborhood, but it was hard to tell if this was his handiwork. My husband has been sitting silently out in the screened-in porch late at night indulging his cigarette habit and has seen a lone coyote stride up the driveway and head down behind the garage on two occasions, so it may have been his leftovers. We have also seen a fisher. His long, bushy, chestnut-colored tail disappeared behind a blue spruce tree, as he slunk along the edge of the woods.
There is one set of tracks that we just can't figure out. It travels across the yard from a big white pine and goes directly under the porch. In between the large footprints, there is an impression of a thin tail, and the snow is pushed aside, as though it's belly were dragging. Whatever it is, it may have set up house under there, or maybe it was just seeking refuge from the weather or some predator.
The yard becomes a secret world after the sun goes down. Nocturnal animals emerge and dramas play out in the darkness, just beyond our doorstep.