On Monday this week, I awoke and looked out of the window. There was nothing but white. I saw only the inconvenience. I would never get a car down the mountain track with that much snow. S***! That was the end of the meeting that I had booked with an animal-tracking expert for later that day. Now I would never know his secrets.
On my second look out of the window, I saw the beauty. The fresh snowfall was casting a silent spell over the land. There might be no formal tracking lesson that day, but conditions were ripe for exploration.
The snow was still falling fast, presenting me with a time capsule- a record of the few animals that had dared to leave their sheltered places in the previous half-hour. One brave deer had taken a route down the edge of the track, where the snow was lightest. There was also the hopping pencil-line print of a robin, searching for food. And cutting purposefully straight across the track- the crawling, claw-toed prints of the badger, his stomach dragging on the ground. The entrance to his sett was just there, cut into the clay soil of the mountain.
And it wasn’t only animals. At the bottom of the hill, engraved on the blank canvas of the builders’ yard car park, the swirling tracks of a van. Evidence of the driver’s difficulty, with sleep still in his eyes, of fitting himself into a narrow parking space. And the valiant post-woman had been there too, her determined prints weaving in and out of every domain.
Turning, I re-traced my own solitary path, my autobiography printed on the snow. At the places where the distance between my tracks closed sharply, I read the history of my excitement. Arriving back at the house, I saw where I’d dragged my heavy feet away from its shelter at dawn, disappointment weighing on me. Now, an hour later, I was forward on my toes, a lighter touch on the ground. I wouldn’t swap anyone else’s secrets for those I discovered myself that day.
The Weekly Prompt : Tracks
Go for a walk. Look for the tracks of animals, birds and people. When you find a set of prints, make an educated guess as to the owner. Then, observe:
-How light, or heavy are the prints? Are there any changes in weight?
-How evenly or irregularly spaced are the prints? Are there any changes in spacing?
Use this information to write a short piece about how the bird/animal/human being is feeling. Also talk about where they are going, and why. The piece will necessarily be fictional, but will be based on your real-life observations.
First published February 8th 2013
Photograph courtesy of Peter Reid.