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Molnar: Snow

Finally, there’s snow!

According to the National Weather Service in Burlington, last weekend’s storm was the largest to hit the state in two years, delivering 8 to 12 inches on average. And if that wasn’t enough to fill the heart of skiers, snowshoers and snow lovers with joy, another six or more inches fell during the past week.

For me, snow means I can forget about the stationary bike and get my exercise outdoors.

I pull on layers and step out. Strapping on skis, I push off the hill, away from the wind.

The snow is fresh, and everywhere the night’s events are written on it in crisscrossing, meandering tracks. I skim over tamped-down snow, a deeryard where the animals have been digging for fallen apples.

I decide to follow one set of prints, to see what the deer saw in their nocturnal travels. The prints take me back up the hill and then down, along the way crisscrossing other tracks. The tracks multiply in places, and in others rumple into unreadable snags. Since there’s no way to know which were made by “my” deer, I can’t unravel their tale, and I remain enmeshed in my human story.

I climb back up to where I can see icicles glimmering on the steep slopes of Birdseye Mountain. A red-tailed fox trots into view. It stands, its luxuriant tail quivering, then hops high, landing with its front legs in the snow. Then it turns in circles and repeats the strange hopping, an odd dance that’s clearly not meant to entertain me. Perhaps it’s pouncing on a hapless rodent scurrying along under the snow.

I’m planning to look up this strange behavior when I’m distracted by a birdcall, a thin sound in the white cold. By the time I point the binoculars, the bird is gone. I know people who could easily identify it by its song, even know whether it’s male or female. I just stand there, filled with book knowledge, but marveling that there’s still so much to learn about the natural world.

Then a dozen turkeys cross the hedgerow. They give me wary looks, but don’t bother stopping. I imagine they have much to do and can’t bother with the likes of me, out in the cold and snow for the sheer pleasure of it.

Martha L. Molnar is a public relations and freelance writer who moved to Vermont in 2008. She was formerly a New York Times reporter.
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