Today, for the first time since last autumn, the dogs and I went for a walk in the woods behind the house. The land slopes down to a narrow swamp, and that slope, which faces south, was completely free of snow. There were quite a few trees down, victims of the brutal winter. But the six huge sentinel pines that stand near the ridge were still upright.
I wondered when we set out what we would find back there. It is such a secluded spot, that I thought we might run across a deer carcass, or a bear-marked tree (a few years ago in early spring a bear came out of those woods and right up to the house--one of the high points of my life). And of course I always hope for a glimpse of one of those elusive--and, according to the State of Vermont, nonexistent--catamounts. But there was nothing out of the ordinary that I could find, other than a bit of carnivore scat--too big for a fox, must have been a coyote.
The dogs, on the other hand, found plenty. They sniffed every stump and patch of moss. Wolfie marked conscientiously, the "Posted" signs we put up before hunting season not being enough for his purposes. Frequently, Wolfie and Bisou would converge on the same bit of ground, sniff intently, then take off. Lexi, following behind, would stop at the same spot, read the same message. The dramas and catastrophes of the past four months were spelled out for all to see.
Except for me, of course. I felt like someone who'd never learned to read and wandered into a bookstore by mistake, and was surrounded by people picking up books, flipping the pages, reading a sentence or two, placing them back on the shelf.
But still I enjoyed the walk, in my pathetic human way, feeling the sun on my back (the trees are still bare), enjoying the respite from the wind that raged over the hilltop, listening to the chickadees. Back at the house an extraordinary sight greeted us: the hens were out in their yard, all six of them, pecking at the frozen ground, fluffing out their feathers in the sun.