Making History

by Mary Keck

As soon as I get home, my dog (Killeen) is ready for a hike whether it’s been snowing all day or not. She may be covered in fur, but I’m the softy.

It isn’t only because of her brown puppy eyes or the need for exercise that I give in, but also because the snow captures nature’s history, and I don’t want to miss it.

Killeen races ahead, jumping over downed limbs and smelling every stone in her path, but I like to take it slow and see who else felt like a wintery sojourn.

Among with the familiar dog paw prints, two-pronged hooves of deer are easy to identify, and sometimes they lead to trails worn from generations of use. Where they’ve smeared to a halt, I can tell it’s slick and layers of snowflakes have hidden the ice beneath.

Tiny mouse tracks that look more like dots with a wispy tail line at the center reveal their whiskery noses have been poking under leaves or peeking out from the tall grass, a perfect place to take cover. I spot the large, fork-shaped prints of a crow among the teenier tracks of smaller fliers and know why my birdfeeder is empty again.

I follow the lope of a rabbit to where the outline of his feet is deeper and more distinct. I can even see where his fluffy white tail pressed into the snow. Maybe he stopped there for a rest or slowed down to perk his ears up and listen for another’s approach.

The tracks regularly lead away from my path and deeper into the woods or under low brambles I wouldn’t dare crawl through. All the activity etched in the snow explains a sprinkling of pine needles, a sheet of birch bark ripped away from a trunk, or a single stray feather waving in a breeze.

While the next rain or snowfall will leave no trace of yesterday’s story, a new history will be written on nature’s fresh slate. If I don’t throw on a few extra layers and tug on my boots, Killeen and I won’t leave any marks for other critters to ponder.

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