Beginning to Track


I was perplexed. "These tracks," I thought, "who made them? They're everywhere. Squirrel? No, not quite." The tracks seemed to stop at the bases of the trees. In fact, the tracks led to nearly every tree.

I was somewhat sheepish when I realized that I was at least partly right. No, they were not squirrel tracks in the deep snow. Not rabbit. Certainly not deer.

Oh, those are marks made by snow falling off trees. Oh.

I admitted my foolishness to Jared. "I could not figure it out, and then I realized, it was just where snow fell to the ground...a beginner's mistake."

I was interested in tracking. And, each snow meant hours of following the crisscross tracks of Black Saddle, the fox with dark flanks; the skips of Brutus the Sparrow; the diamond impressions of a mouse rump.

Once we followed strange tracks from Culver's clearing to Cat Tail Brook. There, the tracks disappeared into a hole in the ice! They reemerged, muddy, from the next hole in the ice. Down into the brook and out onto the ice again. Mink!

I flipped through Mark Elbroch's tome, Mammal Tracks and Sign and anything by Tom Brown, Jr. I noted where the fox must have turned to look to the right. Where his tail brushed the ground. How he favored one of his heel pads all winter.

But, boy, thinking snow falling from the branches were tracks? What a novice.

* * *

Three winters later I walk through the picnic grove at Washington Crossing State Park. I watch two crows reluctantly take flight. Caw caw. I am glad to be outside.

I see the depressions made by snow falling from branches. Probably yesterday.

Tracks, I see tracks. Everywhere, running to the bases of trees. Tracks of a warm winter day. Tracks of snow melting, time passing. My eyes opened. My heart lifted: I saw The Spirit That Moves In All Things.

Took me three years to see the tracks in the snow. I'm still a novice, and now I can begin.