Explorations in the Deep Snow

A lot of snow has fallen around here over the past couple weeks, and, after doing the necessary digging out, we’ve been enjoying it. Noah and Chip made a dog igloo in the back yard.

Chip loves the snow, but when it gets this deep, it’s a pretty tough slog for him.

So I ventured out on my own a few times, relishing the opportunity to put the snowshoes to good use for the first time in maybe three years.

As I walked by this area, a hawk screeched her disgust as she leapt from her watch in the tree and flew over my head to a different hunting spot. I suppose the chipmunk that left these tracks, no snowshoes required for him, would have been easy pickings against the white background.

The evidence in the snow revealed one technique the chipmunks use to evade the hawks, tunneling like moles just under the surface of the snow, only to pop back to the surface for a few leaps before diving under again.

What I assume were field mice tracks were everywhere through the scrubby fields, concentrated around the tufts of tall grass that remained above the surface of the deep snow.

Tiny holes often remained beside grass stalks, surrounded by the remnants of the seedy supper.

Deer ran far ahead of me, their long thin legs sinking deep into the snow between bounds. Much more graceful than me, especially when I had to right the ship after keeling over, without a walking stick. Nobody saw me though — I looked.

I was delighted to find an organic little cabin in the woods, likely made by some inspired teenagers in the summer.

And I was impressed with their woven construction technique.

I’ll end with an entry from Thoreau’s journal that came to my mind after seeing the scraggly little oaks like this one at the edge of the field, whether or not they are of the same particular species to which he refers:

The dear wholesome color of shrub oak leaves, so clean and firm, not decaying, but which have put on a kind of immortality, not wrinkled and thin like the white oak leaves, but full-veined and plump, as nearer earth. Well-tanned leather on the one side, sun-tanned, color of colors, color of the cow and the deer, silver-downy beneath, turned toward the late bleached and russet fields. What are acanthus leaves and the rest to this? Emblem of my winter condition. I love and could embrace the shrub oak with its scanty garment of leaves rising above the snow. . . . In proportion as I know and love it, I am natural and sound as a partridge. I felt a positive yearning toward one bush this afternoon. There was a match found for me at last. I fell in love with a shrub oak.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 1, 1856

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13 Responses to Explorations in the Deep Snow

  1. Lovely photos and thoughts. Thanks David.

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  2. Skip Florey says:

    What a wonderful and well narrated walk. Don’t get snow here…all the clues that are left is something to see. Enjoy the day!

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  3. Jed Dillard says:

    Have you read Also Leopold’s Sand County Almanac?

    I remember there being a part that talks about going out in the snow and seeing the tracks of a rabbit or some other small rodent. The tracks ended at a splash of blood.

    If you haven’t read it I recommend it. There’s a beautiful story about sawing an old oak tree as well.

    On Mon, Feb 7, 2022, 10:47 AM David Fisher, Carving Explorations wrote:

    > Dave Fisher posted: ” A lot of snow has fallen around here over the past > couple weeks, and, after doing the necessary digging out, we’ve been > enjoying it. Noah and Chip made a dog igloo in the back yard. Chip loves > the snow, but when it gets this deep, it’s a p” >

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    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi Jed! Yes, I love the book. It has been some time since I read it, and your comment prompted me to pull my copy down from the shelf. The way Leopold takes us on a journey back in time as the saw cuts deeper and deeper into the old oak is wonderful. I especially love how that story is broken up into sections by the line repeated at the end of each part: “Rest! cries the chief sawyer, and we pause for breath.” Just something calming and mindful about the way he phrases that.
      Thanks for the reminder. I’ll enjoy a fresh exploration of Leopold’s thoughts.

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  4. Pete says:

    Dave,
    Really special pictures and narrative! Snowshoeing is one of my favorite memories of growing up in Vt.
    I recall the chipmunks hibernated-a “true” hibernation,same as bears, different than woodchucks.
    thanks!
    Pete Magoon

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    • Dave Fisher says:

      Good point, Pete. I may have been jumping to an incorrect conclusion that those were chipmunk tracks, but I couldn’t imagine what else. Seemed too small for even a red squirrel, too big for a mouse… I didn’t know much about their hibernation patterns, but from what I can gather, chipmunks enter a state of torpor rather than true hibernation. They have to wake every few days to eat from their hoarded supply of nuts and seeds before going back to sleep. https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/mammals/chipmunks/about But those tracks seemed to be more active than the descriptions of typical winter behavior, so I’ll be thinking and exploring more to solve the mystery. The snow is less powdery now, so I should be able to read the tracks more clearly.

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  5. Carl Newton says:

    A very nice winter read. Thank you! 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michael Meister says:

    “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

    -John Steinbeck

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  7. Jim Howe says:

    Love your writing Dave.
    The tracks of your snowshoes look like a winter pattern you could carve around one of your bowls.

    Liked by 1 person

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