I enjoy rising early in the morning, even in Winter's dark. It is the time of day...the darkness before the dawn...when Animals move about the Forest. Even though I can't see them, my ear picks up slight sounds in the silence of the coming Winter's morning.
If it is not so frigid, I will bundle up and go outside, on the deck. If the Stars are out, I know I will have only a few moments in the cold before I must go in.When the Sky is clear, the temperatures can be too dangerous...frostbite can occur very quickly.
I am looking forward to the days lengthening. In late Winter or really early Spring, Animals are on the move again, just as they are in the Fall. Then, when the Morning is not quite as dark for so long, they are easily seen. But now, it is only the sounds that tell me an Animal friend has visited.
In the darkness, my hearing becomes more acute. The deck is huge, hanging over an embankment, looking over the Forest. Everything seems to be completely silent. Until I settle myself and become quiet, I imagine Animals standing as if frozen, their golden eyes glued on my figure.
When I am finally still, the rustlings in the Forest begin again. If it is a larger Animal, and with two feet of Snow on the ground, there is no mistaking it. I can hear my neighbour up the road walking on the Snow and Ice...the emphatic crunch of footfalls is clearly audible in the clear, cold Air.
When a bigger Animal, such as a Moose or Mule Deer, wanders through, even though I can hear him, it is impossible to see him in the early morning darkness. My best bet is to look for the golden glint of their eyes which reflect the porch light, in the general direction of the sound. And then, to look for a shadow and a blocky, energetic feel that shouldn't be there.
Eventually, the shadow will move. Should it be a Moose or Deer, if I or the light has startled them, the silence of the Dawn is suddenly broken. The crackling noise of a Moose crashing through the icy, Snow-covered Brush is one not to be forgotten.
It is not unusual to hear Coyotes singing, on some small, Snow-covered Hill somewhere close by, if they have made a kill. But the other night, just as I stepped onto the deck for a moment of quiet contemplation, I heard the Wolves greeting the Moon.
The night was ordinary. There was a far distant honk from a vehicle on the highway, lights glinting way off across the Valley, and a soft Westerly Wind sighing through the Trees. My mind was far away on some concern or another...
As I leaned against the deck railing, looking out over the Snow covered Field, the Wolves began their indescribable, unearthly howl.
It seemed as if all sound stopped...I could hear the World listening as the Lords of the Forest raised their noses and howled at the New Moon.
The awed silence lasted for only a slight moment, though...more Dogs than I've ever heard in my life began hysterical barking, yowling and howling in return...from every corner of the Valley.
But that moment, when everything and everyone remained in surprised, silent wonder, that moment shone.
Coyote's song rarely brings forth such a frenzied greeting from the neighbourhood Dogs.
I wonder at the reason for the Wolves' songfest. Why did the Wolves howl? Generally, it is because they have made a kill and are satiated, singing out their gratitude. I dearly hope their kill, which is made for their own survival, is not the Mother Deer who has been missing from the side of her Fawn for the last few days.
The Deer and her youngster have stayed on our property all Winter. It is not unusual to see the two browsing on the tips of the branches of the Saskatoon Berry bushes or chewing on the young Interior Fir branches or huddling together under the grove of Fir Trees at the bottom of our field, during a nasty Snow and Ice Storm.
Mostly, Lucky and Nate stay inside, escaping the hypothermic weather which makes up the Cariboo Winter. But there are days when they will be outside when Mother and her Fawn trail through.
The two dogs have had good experiences with Deer; there seems to be an almost symbiotic relationship between them. There is a small excited woof which escapes them...and then they are off to the great divide...the fence. The Deer will retreat to a safe distance and turn and watch the Dogs, who, after heeding Nature's call and marking spots on every snowy Hillock, will sit and watch the Deer right back.
I am accustomed to their behaviour, yet the interactions between the two species still has the ability to warm my heart.
But, as mentioned, Mama Deer has been absent during the last few appearances of her youngster. The young Deer, as well, has a look of great hesitancy about him, as he steps gingerly through the very deep Snow, caution outlined in every muscle of his body.
The Dogs' behaviour has changed, too. They seem distressed, when only one Deer is there to greet them...and the youngster, at that. Lucky will run up and down the fence line, nose in the Air, searching, searching...while Nate stays, staring at the Deer, as if to reassure.
It seems early in the season for Mama to have left Baby on his own, which happens usually when female Deer seek solitude to nest. But, still, I am hoping this is the reason Baby is alone.
I know it is the way of things. The predator and the prey. When I found myself becoming a bit attached to the two Deer, I also listened to the warning I heard in my mind. Enjoying the close encounters with the Animals who live here is one thing; forming attachments is foolish.
The weather here, and of course, elsewhere, too, has been strange. A week ago, one could have sworn the Spirit of Spring was only around the corner. It became quite warm; Snow melted, turning into Ice overnight, as temperatures dipped. Buds on Trees and Bushes began to swell.
I was not overly worried about the young Deer then. But just like that, the weather changed; an Arctic front pushed its way down and once again, frigid temperatures were the norm, along with Snowfall warnings...and then, yesterday, a wild Blizzard blew. We were back into the thick of Winter.
And then, today, right at four o'clock, baby Deer visited as usual. He brought some friends, completely befuddling the Dogs.
Our Dogs didn't see the others, until they exploded out of the bush and even in the deep Snow, they did not have a problem with navigation.
Baby Deer wasn't sure what to do...should he follow the others or stay and greet two very excited Dogs? He chose to follow his friends at first...and then came back, browsing on his favourite Tree, watching Lucky and Nate, who seemed to go a little insane. Lucky actually ran headfirst into the gate...I'm not too sure what he was thinking!
With each passing day, the small Deer will grow. If he has learned well from his Mama, he will seek cover during the day, foraging in the early morning and late afternoon.
Young male Mule Deer will find other male youngsters to hang out with, while the females have their babies. They'll stay in friendly little herds such as this, until rutting season, when the males will become solitary.
The Spirit of Spring dips her toes into Winter's Icy Pond and retreats...but not before she leaves a hint of her soft breath behind.
Even with masses of Snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures, that soft breath gives the reminder that the cold will pass, just as it does every year.
It won't be long now.