Fox Tracks (Part 1)

Feb. 1, 2015  Steamboat Springs, Colorado

(This post relates to a chapter in my new book, Awakenings from the Light, that deals with reverence for the Earth and all of its creatures.)

Snow fell overnight.

Across the entire valley, a new coating of white powder drapes the land. Not much snow, but just enough to reveal an entire world that most people never witness.

I start out along a creek on a trail set aside for people like me. I prefer the quiet and relative calm of cross country skiing, avoiding the hectic, steep slopes so popular with alpine skiers and snowboarders. It's early morning and the trail is quiet except for the sliding SHUSH sound of my skis. I'm alone for now. The new snow glistens in the warm, morning sunlight. Gleaming white, with little glints of sparkle from individual snowflakes. The snow's surface looks as though someone scattered small diamonds on it.

The bare, warm-white trunks of aspen guard the trail to either side of me, and the sky burns a deep, cobalt blue through their treetops. The bare aspen tips look almost golden against that impossibly blue sky. The only sounds I hear are the soft gurgling of the stream as it tumbles over rocks and under berms of snow, the obnoxious-sounding cry of a magpie winging overhead, and the soft gliding sound of my skis on the new snow.

Onward, past a stand of tall, mature spruce and out into a meadow. Get away from the creek a bit and its music fades into a soft background chorus. The new snow in the meadow is a canvas upon which a fox painted his tales of wandering and hunting through the night. I stop and try to decode what I'm seeing. Across the trail, from right to left he trotted, dainty little feet barely denting the fresh snow. He pauses. A mouse? Little footprints tell me he walked quickly to the right and paused again. I can imagine him stopping for several moment in silence, cocking his head to the right, left, then right again, listening for dinner scurrying under the snow.

After a while of no success, returns around and trots in a tight zigzag across the little meadow. Still looking for dinner. Finally, his tracks fade off into the maze of a grove of aspen and I lose his movement among the white bark of tree trunks.

I marvel at this little representative of the wild living nicely in a park at the edge of town. Multi-million dollar homes dot the hillsides around the park but that's not enough human activity to deter this little guy. He makes his rounds at night, waiting until most people head off to sleep for a few hours. But in the cold of the night, under Orion's watchful gaze, this little red fox searches for dinner to feed himself and his family.

An entire world of animals lives out their lives at night while we sleep. Mostly unseen, they skirt our towns, venture in along fencerows, creeks, and roadsides. They hunt our yards and woods, raid our garbage cans, and make homes in our abandoned buildings.

Just because we can't see them doesn't mean they're not around. And just because we can't see them doesn't mean we don't owe them a decent chance to live their lives unencumbered by threats from us. We're newcomers here, making wholesale changes to the landscape, wetlands, and air to suit our own short-lived whims.

The fox and the barn owl and the bobcat live within our sphere of influence, now. They make a living as best they can with the effects of us all around them. And with ever-more people needing places to live and food to eat, these other citizens of the Earth that share our space get pushed out or crowded together.

And what about the other people on this planet, the ones we don't see, those living on the other side of the world? Many try to eke out their survival from abject poverty, wondering how they're going to feed yet another new baby in the family.

To be continued...

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.