A friend and I went skiing at the cross country ski club yesterday, a collection of looping trails just on the edge of town. To my surprise we were one of the few out skiing that day, so we had the trails to ourselves. It was great to be outdoors, in the woods, and great to spend time with a good girlfriend. I read recently, (see below), that time spent with women heals loneliness, but not so time spent with men. This explains to me some of the power of my female friendships, why they are essential and enriching, irreplaceable in this world, in this lifetime.
There was some snow, but the trails were also littered with animal droppings and tracks. Mostly fox tracks I think, but lots of rabbits too. And squirrels. I feel sorry for them all, enduring the harshness of this cold and long winter, while their kind to the south have much easier lives. Evolution is a strange thing I think, that animals would evolve to survive in this environment. Why exploit this particular environmental niche if others are available? Take the ptarmigan for instance. There are many about town, small chicken sized birds that are pure white but for their black tail feathers. They blend in perfectly in the snow but look a bit silly when they hang out as a group in the low trees, clusters of oversized Christmas decorations. I think they imagine they are also camouflaged in the tree branches as they will be very still until you are quite close. I love their quiet and gentle natures, the delicate way they take flight. But what I love most is their feathered legs and feet, all white and fluffy. Of course this must help keep them warm in these impossibly cold temperatures, but still, its an incredible act of bravery to be here, with or without the feathers.
We saw a wolf footprint too. It was large, about the size of my palm, fresh and well defined. A little later we even ran into a man who actually saw the wolf, so the track we saw was probably very fresh. He may have been even just ahead of us on the trail, just around the corner, while we skied along with our heads down, absorbed in our conversation about our plans for Christmas dinner (organic turkey) and what we are reading now (The Happiness Project). (Most likely he concurs with our dinner plans, but will have to settle for the ptarmigan.)There have been a few wolf sightings around town lately. It was wonderful to see the track and know he was around, but I hope I get a chance to see him too. I think I’ll ask Santa for that this Christmas.