Track whisperer


Typical morning shuffle around the house on a day off.

Awake. Kitchen. Coffee. Fog of sleep still hovering over emerging thoughts of what to do with the day. Coffee. Coffee. Stare out kitchen window into the yard. Coffee.

Off to the side of the fence, two sets of tracks. We had visitors last night.

Winter is a thrilling time around our house. Things happen. Possibly things that happen year-round. Maybe things only happening on a chilly January. Interesting nonetheless.

A blanket has appeared on the ground. Not much. Perhaps an inch. Maybe three. Enough.

Enough to walk out back and see some smaller tracks that show something was wandering along the side of the new shed. Yes, that side. The side where the bottom edge is slightly raised off the ground as a result of leveling out the structure. And enough to see that while within about three feet of darting underneath, the guest decided otherwise and left.

Enough to step into the driveway and see a few very small tracks running along the edge, and yet not under any of the cars.

Enough to see—while inspiring a good laugh—that some potential company crossed the main road, reached the edge of the drainage ditch that lines the frontage of our home, and took a wonderful tumble down the slope to the bottom. (And then scampered off toward a tree, took a turn, and raced through the yard into the brush out back.)

The tracks are all over. Much easier to see in the snow. Much easier to follow a complete journey.

Birdhouses in the yard. All sorts of stories spread out along the ground underneath. Stories of feeding on dropped seed. Stories of settling in after a meal. Stories of some disturbances. (Perhaps fights… perhaps warnings.)

During the summer… throughout the year… we’ve seen a little of everything out in the yard. Turkeys. Skunks. Geese. All out there, before our eyes. Deer. Rabbits. Chipmunks and squirrels and more. Even went outside one evening with a flashlight, turned, and caught a deer about thirty yards away staring at me. Seen enough to provide some background and context for the tracks around the property today. It’s an active playground.

Full moon a short time ago. Snow on the ground. Amazing how the world can be illuminated. Nature is a marvelous thing. That snow seems to change the world. Puts things on display in fascinating ways.

When we first moved into this house, I had zero clue about snow fences. I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t know how they worked. I didn’t know how to pick one out… set one up… even pick a decent location for placing it. We have one now.

I’ve become much more aware of drifting snow thanks to that fencing. Fascinated by it in some ways over the past three winters. That shed is doing similar things to me this year, as drifts curl around, piling high on one side with ground visible on another.

And then there are those tracks.

Not enough to ever believe we have a trail, or frequented passage, running across our property. No. We’re not that popular. But enough to say the night isn’t as quiet as you might imagine when pulling up the covers and settling in for some sleep. There is activity all around.

A part of me wants to see some prints near a window. Not in some dangerous voyeur or strange peeper way. Not human footprints. But a deer or two… say outside the living room. (“Hey Bob. What you got there? Cookies? Watching some Big Bang Theory? Nice.” (I know. And you’re not wrong in thinking that.))

The world moves along, even when we pull down the curtains. We close up shop around the house… lock the doors and close the blinds… and the yard is still busy. I don’t want to learn that something has built a den under my shed, but the idea that we’ve got peaceful surroundings that seem to invite the occasional visit… well… with a cup of coffee in my hand, and a full day ahead of me, that discovery feels pretty good.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at