For those who live in the north, the word "snow" is synonymous with "work." It's not that people here don't like snow, but they may complain about the work that it requires. Last Friday's snow dumped 8 to 10 inches of the fluffy white stuff on the Coulee region of Southwest Wisconsin, so many of us got a workout.
The truth is, I don't mind shoveling snow, to an extent. In fact, I probably shovel more than I really need to. I like to shovel paths to the bird feeders and to the barn, because the bare ground doesn't get icy like trampled snow will. While not absolutely necessary, shoveling these paths is a safety factor. Falling down on the slippery ice is not much fun, and at my age, bumps and bruises just don't go away as fast as I'd like.
I did part of the shoveling Friday night, but saved some for Saturday morning, thinking that doing the work in moderation would be wise. This had the added benefit of getting me out in the sunshine for a while, which felt good even though the temperature was still below zero.
Tracks from several white-tailed deer were criss-crossing the snow-covered ground in the yard. Apparently after the snow ended they had come out exploring in the night. I could see where a rabbit had made his way, hopping through the deep snow to the brush pile. A squirrel had crossed the road and his tracks were a dotted line leading to the bird feeders.
I used the shovel to make a path leading down to the creek. I like to keep these path especially clean of snow, because trecking on slippery, icy snow is even more hazardous when one is carrying a 5 gallon pail of water. I was breaking ice out of the pool where I fill the pail, when I noticed tracks from a cat in the snow. It's rare to see cat tracks where I live, so I wondered where she was staying. If the cat was female, would she be having kittens? I was glad to see that the tracks didn't lead to the barn, but followed the creek north. The creek comes down the valley from the south and runs north by my house before emptying into the Kickapoo River.
After fetching some water, I shoveled another path through the snow to the woodpile. The wood was covered with a tarp, but I still had to clean away the snow. The tiny tracks of a deer mouse darted in and out of the woodpile. He's found a safe place for a warm nest under the wood. From his spot it's also a short trip to the bird feeder for a free meal. As I worked, I wondered what tracks I would find the next morning. I expected some turkeys to show up at the bird feeders in the next day or two.
Yes, with snow comes work, but there also comes beauty. The landscape takes on a wondrous character when it's all covered with snow. The beauty of it all is greatly exaggerated on nights when a bright full moon casts long shadows across the white ground. This makes for great walking.
In the far north, deep snow is a common sight, but it doesn't seem to faze a certain large, long-legged animal. I'm referring to the largest member of the deer family, the moose. Powdery snow can be over 3 feet high—chest deep on the moose—but with powerful muscles, he plows right through it. Deep snow doesn't keep the moose from his favorite food—bark, twigs, and young saplings. In spite of the rough winter conditions, the moose pretty much goes where he wants to.
A bull moose may stand 5 to 6-1/2 feet tall, and may weigh up to 1200 pounds. He may appear slow and ungainly, but would have no trouble outrunning a man. Most of the year, he's right at home in the water, and it's said that he can swim as fast as two people with canoe paddles.
Moose are rare in Wisconsin, but they are often found in northern Michigan, northern Minnesota, and the central and northern Rocky Mountains. Native peoples from the north put the moose at the north point of the medicine wheel, as north is the place of wisdom. To see a moose or hear his bellowing call is a reminder to feel good about your accomplishments on your journey through life.
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