01 February 2014
Growl, Grumble, Whimper, Whump
The deep-throated snarl carries in the night air, from woods’ edge crosses the short span of yard to our listening ears. Two whimper-whines follow. Again the menacing growl, again the whines. This call and response repeats several times.
“What do you think it is?” my husband whispers.
“I’m not sure, but suddenly going out to the barn to feed the geese has lost its luster,” I say.
Dave was carrying in firewood when he called from the back door, “come listen to this.” I’d stepped into the snowy night without a jacket. Now I shiver from more than cold.
The guttural snarls are too throaty for a raccoon, too deep for a squirrel, and too close for comfort. Coyote, I bet. We regularly hear their yipping yowls in the woods around us. But on this dim overcast night, the ground glazed with snow, I conjure up images of timber wolf, tiger, puma, panther, zombie. . . .
“Think some creature is getting killed?” Dave asks.
“Sounds like a youngster getting too close to an adult and being warned off,” I say. “Or maybe Mama is forcing the little ones to keep moving when they want to curl up and sleep.”
The sounds gradually grow softer and further away. We both feel relieved. (All the same, the geese don’t get fed until sunrise.)
This morning I find paw prints on the other side of our fence—prints made by padded feet far bigger and heavier than those of our cat. Yowza. I set off to see who else has been wandering the woods: deer, rabbits, squirrels, small birds. At the north edge of our property I watch two flights of Canada geese glide in for a landing in the neighbor’s cornfield. I honk a hello and wish them luck in finding grain underneath the snow.
I feel extra happy when snow blankets the ground—maybe because I am Minnesota born or maybe a bit batty. At any rate, today’s weather forecast has put me on top of the world. We’re to expect one to two feet of snow. Way it looks now, we’ll get that much before 2:30 this afternoon. A heavy wet snow. Sticks to tree trunks and limbs, looks like corn dog breading on the small short branches. Our beech tree, still covered with leaves, gains so much weight its lower limbs drag the ground.
I happen to be looking out the kitchen window when a hackberry tree, its bare branches bowed low, reaches a tipping point. Suddenly it shrugs off its coat of winter white. Bent branches straighten and the entire tree snaps to attention. Snow catapults into the air.
Other trees are less melodramatic: an upper limb dumps its load. This in turn hits against lower branches and knocks them clear. With a whump, an isolated avalanche lands beneath that particular tree.
Dave suggests a walk. Soon we are plodding through knee-deep snow, ploughing through drifts higher yet. Hard work, but oh, the splendor. Stunning sights at every turn. The sky come close, the world white, us among the clouds. Every dry weed dressed in ermine. Each standing tree a masterwork of line and form, saplings bowing at its feet. All through the woods, Nature’s already graceful limbs frosted fluffy soft, limned in ivory.
These trees are participants in beauty, simply by being what and where they are, I think to myself. Not that it’s a cake walk—witness the creaks and groans we hear, the one loud crack—but surely it’s worth it to be robed in such glory. Ah, that I, too, could be a participant in beauty.
As if in answer, branches overhead unload their excess weight and plaster me with snow.