Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Spirit of Spring

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.


  1. Wonderful description of what is going on in your back yard. I am not sure I entirely agree with not forming attachments with the wildlife around you - giving them your whole heart allows an exchange between you. You need not feed them or make them dependent on you for their survival but to become attached emotionally is not a bad thing, even if you are sad when they disappear... has Mama Mule deer returned?

  2. I'm sure it is hard not to get involved in the lives of your little visitors, except as you say they are predators and prey and human interference only causes problems that nature doesn't need.

    We are enjoying spring now with the almond trees blooming and spring flowers emerging. But the only wildlife around here are gophers and feral cats. :>)

  3. Marion, what beautiful photos! I agree with you, but I'm hopeless. I began feeding stray cats and now there's 8 or more that show up at my back door and of course, I feed them. OY!

    We've had lots of signs of spring although it's cold and sleeting today. The weeds are growing and those vain Narcissus are already blooming. :-)

    Love & Blessings,

  4. It's hard to be so helpless to do much for the wild animals, which a person can't help caring about. Something wrong with someone whose heart isn't touched by their plight at times. There are those who say we shouldn't feed the birds or deer in winter; we should let Nature have her way and starve them. I just can't. I'm part of Nature too; I get to participate. It's okay to follow our hearts, I hope. (I could never let my babies "cry it out," either!)

    I didn't know the reason coyotes and wolves howl; we don't hear wolves here, but usually coyotes. I'm glad they've had a feed!

  5. Oh Marion, I cried....I admit it. I know well the cycle of Nature...yet it hurts, because I am an instant-bonder to creatures that I share space with! You have described all of your hope and fears so honestly, it inspires me to know someone feels as I do, yet I also am such a "wuss", I want Mama and Baby Deer to remain together for a while longer.

    The photos are breathtaking.... I miss being immersed in Winter's Snow.... and you are so adept at revealing it in all of it's glory - and also it's pain. (Cos' you know I love Wolves too...)

    I miss your world....yet your posts make me feel a part of it still.

    Thank you for your brilliant words and beautiful photographs.

    Here's to your Fawn....may she have learned a lot of Wisom from her Mum.


    ♥ Robin ♥

  6. Lovely post and photos; I love the deer! I hope Mama Deer comes back.

  7. Your writing painted a compelling clear picture that completely drew me into its dreamy world. I felt the soft morning silence, the sudden bitter chill and the shadowy presence of animals nearby. I, too, wonder about the mystery of their lives and wish for good outcomes.

  8. i can almost hear them from here. the wolves, the deer, lucky and nate. i lost count how many winters i have been following you marion, every time i see your white blanket of snow photos i shiver. the weather here has turn hot and dry now, a little too dry i think. and the energy has amp up a few notches too. all is well & good.

  9. Pauline,

    Mama Deer has not returned, but if she has had her fawn in some safe little hollow, she will be busy for awhile. I hope I see her when the Snow has melted...generally, there is a herd of female Deer with their babies that reside here.

    Baby Deer has found a group of three other young'uns'. The Dogs will eventually grow accustomed to the new Deer group, if they continue to accompany Baby Deer on his forays to visit the Dogs.

    I agree, there is nothing wrong with giving them my whole helps the connection to form. It is quite simply the most awesome have these animals have enough trust in us and this place to visit throughout their lives, bringing their babes and showing them off!


    We have no gophers, although I have seen the huge mounds they make down south. But we have feral cats...they are the most difficult of all wild animals to get to know.

    I envy're much closer to Spring than I am! I'll just have to imagine those almond trees and the warm, loving breezes!


    The wild cats around here won't come near, even with food left out. They do prey on the bird feeder, though, and they will clean up after the Squirrel, who loves to kill birds for the fun of it, and then leaves their bodies scattered around. This is strange behaviour on the cats' part...any cat I've ever had won't touch an already dead bird.

  10. Katie May,

    I love this..."I'm part of Nature too; I get to participate."...When I lived on the Coast, I would leave hay out for the white tail deer. But there were far fewer predators there. If I fed the Deer, and it would have to be close to the house, since there is so much Snow, I would draw cougars, wolves, etc. here as well. Neighbours would definitely have a bit to say about that.

    Having said that, I do throw apples over the fence and love to hear the crunch of an animal eating the apples in the dark of the early morning! And I could never let my babies cry either...I have never been able to figure that idea out!

    And I think, if I lived on a large piece of property, with far off neighbours, I would feed the deer, moose and elk. At least, a bale of hay now and again.

  11. Robin,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the photos, Robin. I can't wait for Spring, so that I can post photos of something other than Snow! I will have to dig deep for patience...the Snow will be here until May!


    I know how much you love Snow, Daisy, hahahahaha! Have fun with your grandson...he's Mr. Right, for sure! Mama Deer hasn't returned, so far, but she may be with her new baby or babies.

    aka Penelope,

    Thank you so much! Coming from you this is a compliment indeed...your own writing is awesome and so interesting each time you write. I'm glad I was able to portray the deep silence of an early Cariboo morning!


    Isn't it great, that, in this day and age, you and I are able to communicate so easily, when you live where it is Summer and I live where it is Winter. Years ago, we might never have connected. That's what I love about blogging...the people I meet are so fascinating!! xoxo

  12. Dear Marion, This, for me, was just pure magic and enchantment. What a gentle way to start my morning.

  13. Such a beautiful telling of your life in the Cariboo. I'm sure you're being watched with many eyes, Marion. Golden eyes ;)

    We had an early warming as well, also leaving us hopeful that spring would soon be here. And just like you, we had an arctic front move in and make everything sheer, dangerous ground. Our driveway was a skating rink!
    But today it's quite warm again, and once again I have high hopes for seeing daffodils soon.

    Happy Valentine's day, dear friend.


  14. WONNNNNNNNNNDERFUL POST! I'm an early-before the sun- riser as well. I LOVE it! I get to see a few deer now and then, but I enjoying the animal prints in the fresh snow if I don't catch them by sight. I love the quiet, the wind, the silence. It's amazing.

    Beautiful pics, beautiful post!!

  15. I felt like I was at your side listening to the wolves, watching the deer and dogs, and standing in the cold in the deep silence. What lovely images - I will treasure them during the day

  16. You are so correct. It won't be long and then the weather will make us all step a little lighter and we will welcome the light that will warm us and keep us company.

  17. It is the coyotes which I wish didn't have to eat -- got 6 of my ducks this winter. I blame myself for not forcing ducks into the safe pen, and letting them on the lake too long. Their circle of water became smaller and smaller as freezing progressed and pretty soon too small to keep varmints from scaring them out of the small pool and onto the ice, to be snagged and eaten.
    So I herded the remaining 3 into the pen. One is a female so I will get some eggs to put in the incubator to create a larger group over summer.
    We don't have wolves here but a farmer shot a mountain lion recently (very rare -- the mountain line, I mean, not the farmer shooting things -- which seems to be their first impulse) He claimed cat was getting his stock but couldn't prove it. The cats traditionally kept the coyote population down. That is until most were killed off.
    Now we get to eat beef instead of enjoying a natural scheme of things. So goes it!

    I am fine, waiting for spring as are we all, and hoping you and Graham are well.

  18. Annie, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

    Studio Lolo, That skating rink driveway is getting a little tiresome for me, as well! Nate fell on his bad hip three times the other day. xoxo

    Sheila...thank you so much for visiting! It's so nice to know I've connected with someone who also loves the early mornings.This morning it was very cold, with stinging snow...will it never grow warmer? Heh!


    It is a great time for reflection, when others still sleep. I love the intense silence, as well.


    "the weather will make us all step a little lighter"...that is so true! When a warmer day arrives, I feel like I don't have a care in the World!

  19. Goatman,

    I'm so sorry to hear about the coyotes and ducks. But you really tried hard to keep the ducks safe--I'm sure it wasn't funny when you rescued them, but the way you wrote the post was hilarious.

    I'm really sorry the cat was killed, especially since the farmer couldn't come up with proof. We have big cats here as well. So far, I've only heard their cry, but we have been placed on alert to keep an eye out for any sign of them. There has been activity where I live, apparently. I won't be the one to give the cats away...

    I'm glad you feel well, Lyle, I think of you often!


  20. hello friend,

    i've savored this post. you painted all of it: the sounds, the frost, the eyes, the colors, the tension, and the way of the world. you did that simply by stringing words together! no pictures were needed, although they were welcomed too.

    snow on the ground until may? oh no. i can only wait here in my yard until march.

    when i read that the little deer is no longer alone, my heart smiled. i'm glad.

    and the dogs and those deer: awwwww, marion. i love you


  21. It's that circle of life again isn't it with all it's beauty including the darker side of life that keeps the circle tight. I'm glad the fawn has formed a new family, safety in numbers*!*