Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Minks in the Marsh

Across a bay from Rippled Rocks Point on the Hudson River at Moreau stands this lovely little rocky mound of an island, crowned by three white pines.  I call it Three Pine Island although it is also forested with smaller pines, hemlocks, chestnut oaks, black tupelo, birch, and one small, very crooked white ash growing out of a crack in a boulder.  It is surrounded by a marshy area that runs a hundred yards or so back into the woods.  Both the bay and the marsh are frozen solid today, allowing me to explore on snowshoes an area I can barely creep into by canoe in the summer.

Prominent across the snowy ice are these tracks (see photo above),  which at first, all excited, I thought must be otter, this bound and slide so typical of that animal's track.  But no, the slides are too narrow, barely 3 inches across, and the pawprints as small as those of a cat.   Must be mink.  A couple of them, it seems, making a beeline across the bay, into the marsh all the way to an open stream that forms this marsh's boundary, where they disappear into the water.

On days like this and in places like this, I feel like a 12-year-old kid, like a kid in a candy store with a hundred bucks in my pocket.  Most people I know love to travel to foreign places and visit exotic sights.  I've done some of that.  But all  the time I was passing through it felt like I was only looking at places through glass.  I didn't know how to truly inhabit them.  But here . . . . Here on this river . . . .  I've  been here at least fifty, sixty, maybe more than a hundred times, in all seasons, weathers, times of day;  I know the names of just about everything that grows and lives here, flora and fauna;  I know what plants are good to eat and where the orchids grow; and yet,  every time I visit, it all seems terra incognita. 

I never know what I  might find.  One spring morning I nearly stepped on a tiny brand-new fawn curled in the grass at my feet, so close I could sense its breath pass in and out of its nostrils.  One autumn evening I watched a young beaver drag a twig to the water's edge and heard him gnaw on it.  One cold but brilliant January afternoon I saw a pair of bluebirds high in a tree,  their rosy breasts the only color in the winter landscape.   And one day . . . .  Some day . . . .   Just one of these days I know I will see an otter. 


NatureGirl said...

What a beautiful post!

I was talking to a teacher yesterday who signed her class up for our tracking program,and who said how perfect it was because they are studying the animals in Alaska in winter. Alaska? What about teaching them to appreciate the animals here at home first!?! It's a common problem in our schools - teaching about far away things and never building any sense of place for those things at home. I'm glad to read your post and know that there is someone else out there who appreciates the things in her own "backyard."

peter d said...

Beautiful mom. This is great.