Of all the nerve. A moose plunged through our snowy wonderland.
The neighborhood Bullwinkle gouged the back forty trail. My trail. I have slogged a reliable floor on snow shoes by compressing numberless, nearly weightless flakes — bound together by weather and gumption.
Moose tracks boggle my sense of proportion. Those hoof prints could be family-size canned hams.
And those gouges compromise balance: a boot teeters, an ankle gives way. No wonder my usually mellow soul bristles.
Overnight, the gentle herbivore collapsed whole sections of trail I have carved and re-carved, daily, over four months. Through sleet and sunlight and once, near whiteout.
Come spring, I mean to jog again. A gear junkie would buy snow shoes designed for running. I’m too cheap. For now, dogged phlogg-ing fuels my training regimen:
- pitch body forward
- trust metal claws
- let poles swing, plant, propel
Rhythm cuts the trail.
Most days something pent up inside hollers, Move it! Make your way through this booby-trapped world.
But what about the wilderness carried within? Some of us crave drama. Others dodge it. How to navigate those unexpected sinkholes that compromise footing?
Weight wise, a bull moose is the equivalent of a grand piano. In the midst of deep drifts, the toes splay — akin to snow shoes. Each hoof’s surface area increases, which minimizes how far those long legs can sink.
The hoof is a hardworking trinity. There are compacted shock absorbers. Two cloven toes function like our middle and ring finger. A dew claw becomes weight bearing and enhances agility, like our pointer and pinky.
And . . . almost heart-shaped. A terrible magnificence has cratered my sacred aisle, through bowed-over knapweed, through powder and windswept ripples and hummocks of ice.
Caprice? Necessity? Irreversible ruin?
Poet Molly Peacock writes about sustaining “a respect for emergence.” Bound to be awkward. Guaranteed to counter preferred rhythms.
Ideally, perhaps we navigate the intrusive by remaining attentive. Patient.
What if we welcome unwanted traffic on our perceived turf? What if something gentle yet powerful we’ve yet to identify calls to us now, from below the surface?
Lord, be our balance, our surefooted joy.
Friends, what keeps you nimble in challenging times?
P.S. You might enjoy this poem I wrote (many thanks to publisher Katie Manning, Whale Road Review)
Loneliness moves by stab
and creak over winter hills—
crossbite of straps,
cunning hoops with teeth. Like prayer,
snowshoes re-float the body,
distribute its burden.
Wood or aluminum,
be our wings. Our boats.
Fences run with the hills.
Snow fleas pepper the snow
beneath spruce. Skitter of mice
in whiskery lines, strut
and splay of the wild turkey.
Beneath my flat blue shadow
and, deeper down, the memory
of bared soles, mingled
with fossils. Today:
practice not sinking.