Sunday, February 26, 2012

open woods filled with tracks

I went up into the woods today, in a new direction, into an area that was part of the sacrifice zone for some logging we had done four years ago. Our house – this is pre-addition – faces south, and it was getting almost no light due to a stand of 80-year old hemlocks. To make such a small job feasible, we allowed some additional hemlocks and some hardwoods to be taken from up on the hill, nearer to our neighbor’s house, but on our property.  I’d been hesitant to visit the spot until this weekend, when it just seemed like time.

As I stepped around piles of slash (the branches left behind when the whole trees are dragged away), I meditated on the sometimes horrifying responsibility of being a landowner in Vermont. Let’s face it, these woods have all been logged multiple times in the past couple of hundred years. The woods in back of our house were cleared out for pasture who knows how long ago, as evidenced by a stone wall a few hundred feet back. This is what that looks like.

I began to make my peace with myself, once the mosses got my attention.


They love stumps and logs.


So do the lichen. 

Nearby, a paper birch beckoned.


my totem tree.


happy sigh.

We have company:


Lots of tiny tracks. I’m not sure whose these are. I started following a larger set of prints:


After looking in a book and at photos, I can’t tell if this is a fisher, a bobcat, or a gray fox. (I’m not very good at tracking. Yet.) Whoever he was, he was in charge: walking calmly and confidently in a long straight line through the woods. I followed for a while. I entered an open area that just felt…right. My sense was that I was approaching the sugar bush above our house.


I watched a squirrel run along the rock wall – the only animal I saw moving the whole time.


But I knew I wasn’t really alone. Yet another track, right at my feet. (It’s running from the lower right to the upper left in the picture above.)

I stood there for a few minutes in silence, just taking it in.


At this point, I was pretty confident that I was on our own property (our back property line coincides with that rock wall). I took a bunch of pictures, slightly anxious that they wouldn’t convey the magic of the light, the almost palpable sense of consciousness in these woods. It’s a lucid dream feeling, but I’ve never felt more grounded. I can practically feel all the tree roots through my feet. Periodically, I remember that hey: this is real, right now.

There’s clearly major mojo in these woods. I don’t pretend to know much about these things, so I’ll just yield the floor to Terry Pratchett:

Is it not written in the sacred text, ‘There’s a lot goes on we don’t know about, in my opinion’?” said Lao-Tse.

Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

The universe danced toward life. Life was a remarkably common commodity. Anything sufficiently complicated seemed to get cut in for some, in the same way that anything massive enough got a generous helping of gravity. The universe had a definite tendency toward awareness.

Terry Pratchett, Soul Music

A little more wandering brought me into the chunk of woods straight up the hill from our house, which curiously, does not belong to us (our property is shaped like the sick lovechild of Texas and Oklahoma - all conflusticated). I was sneaking up on places I’d already visited, but from a direction I’d never come. I wasn’t alone in coming this way, either:


gray fox, I think. (Track Finder, Dorcas Miller)


There were also little hoppy hoppies, which are rabbits, maybe (again, based on Track Finder…)


By now, I am truly sneaking up on our house. A yellow birch stands sentinel. It’s good know we’ve got good bodyguards.


This cheeky fox (?) is RIGHT behind our house. (See his tracks off my left shoulder, heading into the corner of the picture?)

Who wouldn’t love it here? We’ve got this:



And one last kick-ass sentinel.

Not bad for a day’s work.

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