Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spaces we share

There is blood in the snow, little orange drops along the trail, perfectly spaced in a line. I am used to seeing that, a scratch on the side of a paw or a bitten tongue in pursuit of a stick.

Fresh blood glows crimson or bright poppy red against the white, forming into perfect balls, red globes with a sugar coating. I have had to drop to my knees, examine these globes more closely as they shift and roll against the dry snow, to determine it is not actually a chunk of flesh that has torn away.

The older the blood the more orange, or if it is warmer and the blood does not freeze once it touches the snow it becomes watered down quickly and the orange flecks can be mistaken for splinters of pale wood stripped from a stick.

Blood that has been there for days is eaten by the snow, converted from red to orange to black as it seeps out from a centre point, through the white crystals, until it is but a faded grey circle as though someone puffed a mouthful of smoke onto the surface of the snow.

The blood we see on the trail is on its way to orange. I was sure Molly cut her foot again, rubbed the raw spot on the side of her paw against the sharper edges of the worn-in trail, the icier bits, and with each step she was putting a drop in the snow. But then I see Murdoch ahead through the trees, he has found something just off the trail, he is eating it, crunching as I get close. He scoops up whatever it is in his mouth, moves further away.

The blood trail continues along our well-beaten path, emerging from the trees and heading towards the open field. There are footprints, clear now that the dogs are behind me. Paw prints, partially filled in with fresh snow obstructing the detail, large enough for my un-gloved fist to fit inside. A wolf, I am sure.

The prints are evenly spaced, a casual saunter. Sometimes a curved shape appears in the snow between the prints as though a snake were slithering along beneath the belly of the wolf. Something hanging from its mouth perhaps, I picture a white rabbit dangling down, its foot occasionally dragging in the snow, or a red squirrel.

I am not worried about running in to the wolf, though I am excited to follow its trail. The thought that it could be watching us from the darker parts of the forest does cross my mind, but it is a frivolous thought. There are wolves here, we have seen them before, we have heard them. We exist on the same paths at different times.

In the fall before the snow, before the real cold, I stopped in the bare woods with the dogs as it lit up with a thousand voices. A chorus of yips and howls rose amongst the trees like the voices of a choir soaring, reverberating in a cathedral, a physical thing. Every particle of air came alive with the sound, a joyful sound, not eerie, coming from all directions at once.

I expected a pack of wolves to come running through the trees straight at us, I expected the spirits of a thousand wolves to flash and swirl through the canopy overhead, I expected to feel their wind as they travelled by. The cacophony of voices grew and grew and then started to fade. I tried to place them somewhere in the landscape, I looked to the dogs for some indication but they didn’t care, more interested in sniffing under leaves. And then the voices were gone and the woods were silent.

We follow the single wolf track in the snow along our trail. It cut across a short expanse of deeper, untravelled snow, to the base of a large pine tree where Murdoch tracked it and sat crunching on something else. I never saw what it was, just the droplets of blood scattered about by that tree. A picture emerges of the wolf hunkering down with its kill. Not much left, not more than a couple of gulps for my dog to finish off.

No comments:

Post a Comment