While I find solace from the frigid temps prepping education and public programs indoors, Mother Nature is hard at work in this time of supposed “hibernation”. With a little help from Father Winter, we at OWG arrived last Wednesday to discover a light frosting on the landscape. The classic winter view was complete from the edge of the dusted lake trail to the soundless beds of the vegetable garden. It was an absolutely perfect winter day, warm and still without a hint of wind. Ideal conditions for a morning stroll over the grounds. This is my first full winter here at the Gardens and what a lucky gift it is. Of course I cherish the times when the trees are flush with new growth and the beds are in full bloom, but this quiet season of rest lends itself to a certain private performance. On a day like today, the woods are silent, the air crisp, and the views spectacular. Even in the absence of color and growth, the beauty of these Gardens still seems to surprise me.
Yet there is invisible action afoot. Upon close inspection, this novice tracker found trail marks logging early morning steps on the freshly fallen snow. The tracks hint to the elusive winter activity that often goes unnoticed. Movement can be recorded, a change of heart and direction observed. You truly can discover a great deal in the remains of the unseen.
A nearly straight line of single timed prints indicates the possible presence of a determined fox. Gray squirrel tracks mimic exclamation points and seem to run from tree to tree. A domestic cat paraded across our office path while tracks echoing the distinct rabbit style (large opposite hind feet falling behind staggered forepaws) run from one area of brush to the next. Even the low swooping owl was fairly silent as it glided 8 feet above my head scaring the pellets out of me.
By the end of my walk, nearly all of the markings of this great hunt were gone, melted away along with their ethereal glimpse of winter life. I felt fortunate to be a witness to something so small yet so valuable. Treasure these last days of the season and explore the silent happenings within your own winter retreat.