Friday, December 19, 2008

THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE YARD


Last night’s snow added several more inches to what was on the ground already. It’s not all that deep; still less than six inches, but this morning the snow has turned to sleety rain, so any fluffiness is gone, and an icy crust is forming over everything. It looks unbroken on the surface, a smooth expanse of white punctuated only by a few windblown twigs and leaf fragments, but I know what lies beneath.

Yesterday, there were tracks left by someone’s cat that had walked from the neighbor’s junipers to the edge of the yard where the plow had cleared the driveway. It had moved not in a perfect straight line, but made a slight shift to its right, as if it heard something, and might have considered going that way but thought better of it, perhaps wanting to get out of the snow and onto the open asphalt.

Beneath yesterday’s snow, several slightly larger branches had come down in the previous wind. They, too, were mostly covered, with only the tips still showing. Many birds came to inspect them, leaving loops and tangles of sketchy tracks behind. And out back I saw where a gray squirrel had run between two trees.

Over by the feeder in the lilac bush I found a telltale scattering of dark feathers and a patch of crimson snow. My heart sank because I thought perhaps the cat had caught a bird, but on closer inspection, there were no cat tracks close by, no animal pounce mark. It had to be either a Cooper’s or a Sharp-shinned Hawk, both of which are attracted to winter feeders for their prey. That was not so bad. A well-fed cat hunting for sport is not the same as a raptor hunting to preserve its own life.

On this morning's news I heard more snow is on the way, so whatever happens out there today will become another layer soon. Each will be added to the next until the remains of all – feathers, twigs, branches, tracks, everything that happened in the yard – will lie entombed as fossils. Maybe not forever, but for the duration of winter at least.

15 comments:

Sydney said...

what a great blog I will look at the snow in my yard with much more appreciation to what's going on all around me. You really do see so many things, that others don't-- very grateful that you are sharing your observations You always make me look again and think again....

dennis said...

Dennis says here we call the icy crust "Shinyl vinyl" . Sometimes you can walk on top of it for a good while before breaking through--even if you weigh over a 100 pounds. Cats rarely break through-- Dennis watches the outdoor cats slide along on top of the crust, trying to poke their claws in for traction.

Aleta said...

That is such a cool picture. I love the tracks and makes me wish I could have watched the cat and listened to its mind to know - why the drift in the path.

Love your observation and depth of writing!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Deborah, I love to go outside WHEN we get snow (When I said???? ha) and see the deer tracks. Glad the well-fed cat didn't indulge in a meal of birds!!! Hawks???? That's okay -I guess--since they need to eat also. BUT--the kitty needs to stick to his or her cat food!!!!

We have rain, fog, and YUK here in TN today--and it's 62 degrees and HUMID.
Hugs,
Betsy

a little bird said...

50 degrees in California... how far is your ground from my ground?

bobbie said...

don't you love tracks in the snow? They tell such stories - and sometimes you get to make up stories of your own to fit whatever is there.

Sylvia K said...

Beautiful post, as always, they frequently give me the opportunity to look at many things with a different perspective and we all need that. It's much too easy to settle into our own mind set -- whether about big issues or small and that is never good, not for us or for those who people/animal our world. Thank you for the photos and your insight.

Lin said...

love the idea of archaeology of the yard with tracks, look at my blog today for my husband's tracks yesterday they tell a story of our first and hopefully last winter snow. although we do need the water. today it's all melting and it was foggy.

Dee said...

I had a hawk encounter today- which I just posted about- with one of the hawks you mentioned in your post- what a weird little bit of serendipity!
I love the tracks in the snow picture and your commentary- as always it makes me smile and nod!

mom/caryn said...

Lovely. Both the photograph and the thoughtful words on your observations. I'll most definitely look at our yard with keener interest.

We do live in a world of so many wonders. It is difficult indeed to be bored, isn't it?

Avid Reader said...

Glad to get snow today finally! Do you know many snow poems? When I was a kid I loved the new-fallen snow description in "A Visit from Saint Nicholas"

magiceye said...

elementary dear watson :)

hitch writer said...

Cool pic.... Santa is coming !!!

SandyCarlson said...

I hope the twigs all get a decent burial so any sledders can get out there and really enjoy! You said icy crust and I thought "Flexible Flyer, here I come!" I love the snow. Thanks for the views from your corner of the world!

Quiet Paths said...

This is a quiet and tender note of the so many patterns, shapes, and incidents which occur every day right under our noses. Thank you for the contented sigh it gave me.