Creek Journal ~ 2010-02-12

Rodent Tracks: Indecision, lunacy, or play?

☼ Imagine: In six weeks, the first tiny flowers appear in the lawn grasses, mustards mostly, tiny cruciferous signs of spring. Liars. Buds swelling, hints of red in the treetops along the ridge in the slanting first light of morning, cold light with little warmth blown by March winds. Counterfeit. Bluebirds trilling on the south ridge in the pines, throwing their voices ahead to June. Ventriloquial lip-sinkers.

☼ We’ll get out today or have the National Guard air-drop bread, milk and beer–life’s essentials. Oh, and maybe some bran flakes, a big box of produce from Sweet Providence, some goodies from Harvest Moon, and Ann needs embroidery thread from Schoolhouse Fabrics. Surely The Guard takes requests before they come.

☼ Winds have been horrendous up above us, and bad enough here on the ground in our holler, a snow-globe of swirling, stinging ice crystals that have flattened all our footprints–and those of the unfortunate wildlife who hopefully have survived the heavy drape over their table for weeks on end, while perhaps the tick populations have been decimated by this prolonged and brutal cold.

☼ Imagine: a world where the water in the bowl in the chicken pen stays liquid all day long. A road that is safely passable east or west. A landscape safe for foot traffic without YakTraks. A wardrobe that does not include two scarves and a stupid-looking airplane-orange hat. A morning, afternoon and night not tethered to the woodstacks and stove, ashes and kindling. Imagine!

☼ I hope to start a separate tab or two from the home page here. Just in the thinking stages yet. Maybe one for links and shorts–like these. And another for environmental issues, another for sustainability solutions, another for more lyrical prose about the landscapes, personal and terrestrial. Who knows. I’d like to keep this front page varied and “branded” with the “front porch conversations” flavor it has tried to maintain.

☼ RE the image: these tracks appeared the first morning after the last snow-dump. A better picture could have been obtained if I had been suspended above these runes by a sky hook but none was available. From the size, a rodent: at play? out of his or her mind? into the spicebush brandy? Never saw anything like this before.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Cool post! I live in the outskirts of Blacksburg and today was the first day the plows hit our development since Sunday! Thank God for 4WD!
    No idea what made those tracks – but VERY COOL pic!!

  2. For Fred First- and other winter survivors in these here mountains!
    My German Shepherd has learned to guilt trip me into more walks- she tag teams with the red-headed Aussie who is not above bounding onto the bed and pitching that whine so close to some intolerable pitch that I’m tossing aside my books and searching for the last boots that were sporting the yak trax. I have accepted this as my fate.

    However, about a quarter mile down the road I realized that one of the twins was also emanating her feline presence and materializing next to me. Ay-yup, now the other twin is popping out from behind Christo Church. I love a parade! To think,I retired from the Crisis Center to herd cats- must be some winter karma about this winter.

    So Fred-lighten up, this snow is here like a croning mother earth fluffing her down comforter!

  3. I dunno, more like being smothered with a down comforter or a vast white shroud of sensory deprivation with severe social isolation tossed in.

    I’ve almost lost the will to photograph! Gak!

  4. Oh no- it’s backyard birdcount time – that’s always a good excise to grag toys outside- camera, binocs, book, chair- hell, better bring snacks and coffee too!