The snow is almost gone from our yard already. Here, facing northwest across the Winooski Valley, an April without white stuff on the ground is a rare gift.
Soon, crocuses will be in bloom. We’ll be planting peas and salad greens. And the world will be buzzing with life.
The spring peepers, returned from the mud, will begin their chirping chorus in the old beaver pond near our house. The ruffed grouse who have spent the winter feeding on aspen buds and eluding raptors will be drumming, mating, and laying eggs. And the largest of our forest-dwelling neighbors will be on the move.
Every spring, we find moose tracks by the pond. The great, dark animals come down from the hills, drawn to wetlands where they—still wearing thick winter coats—can find relief from the heat. The thermometer is supposed to hit 75 this weekend. With no leaves on the trees yet, shade can only be found among the conifers.
If we’re lucky, we find bear tracks, too. Emerging from hibernation, they’re on the lookout for food. Time for us to take the birdfeeders down, lest we once again wake at midnight to the sounds of a bruin snuffling around on the back porch.
In this lush, bustling time of year, I take pleasure in seeing our wild neighbors and signs of their passage.
On seeing deer or deer tracks, I might think briefly of autumn, of the way dry, frosty leaves crunch under a whitetail’s hooves.
Mostly, though—as I did before my hunting days—I am just grateful to move among my fellow creatures, knowing that they are moving all around me. As I did before my hunting days, I feel indebted for the simple gift of their presence.
As I did before my hunting days, I sense the importance of protecting our neighbors’ homes—the highlands and the wetlands and the routes traveled by moose in between, the stands of beech where bears fatten themselves when the mast crop is good, the steep and rocky places where bobcats den—from greedy encroachment by too many of our homes and roads and economic enterprises.
Perhaps the only difference, now that I occasionally drag venison from these hills, is that I am indebted to these creatures and places in yet another way.
© 2010 Tovar Cerulli