The Dog Butterfly, or, Come Slog With Me

3 Feb

There was no way any woodchuck could see his shadow here yesterday, or any day in the past month.  It would have had to dig its way out of the snow filled hole and swim to the snowy surface.

School was closed yesterday but the much anticipated and hyped storm did not show up.  There was a little freezing rain in the late afternoon.  The salt on the roads made quick work of that.  We have been getting a few inches of new snow each day.  And the wind blows around what is already there.  It is snowing again now, in fact.  The roads have much more snow on them than yesterday yet the cars don’t seem to mind as they whiz past.  That is because today there is no anticipatory angst about “a storm approaching”.  We can just enjoy regular winter weather.  How silly we are.

What is new is the feeling that Hawthorne and I somehow fell into an adventure movie when we went for our walk. We went a tad earlier than usual so it was not yet light, only half light.  It was blowing and snowing, per usual.  Imagine yourself Indiana Jones crossing a narrow pathway over a deep endless pit, or gorge ending in a river. Now cover it all with snow so you can not see the narrow path. And the wind has scoured away all trace of previous passages; you have one smooth white surface.   You get the idea.  When I stepped off the well worn 150 yard track which runs up the hedgerow I plunged in up to my knee. It happened a lot.

There is a nice thick and crunchy crust. So there is no sliding through the snow, as one can when it is powdery. I was high-stepping and Hawthorne was using his dog butterfly stroke.  He rears up on his back legs and plunges as far forward as he can, landing on his front legs and using the forward momentum to lift his body and bring his rear legs up tight to his front feet without coming through the snow. Repeat quickly ad infinitum.  He leaves a trail of dog sized holes 3-6 feet apart.  It takes a lot of effort in snow that reaches your belly.

When the dog lays down to rest every few yards and eventually comes and follows in your path it is either very cold or very deep snow.  Today it is in the 20’s.  It was the deep snow.  Hawthorne–who is now officially considered a ‘big dog’ at about 60 pounds–finally moved into the hedgerow where the snow was sometimes less deep.  Right on the path and in most of the hedgerow the snow is only calf-deep. Eventually I crossed into the hedgerow to come back down the other side.  We didn’t even make it to the woods.

So as I turned around very early in to what would be a normal walk my left leg sank up to the thigh in a drift.  OK.  No problem.  On the next step that leg went in up to the hip.  Instantaneous compassion for the dog!  Thoughts of “To Build a Fire” and Jack London.  I managed to crawl out of the drift in the next minute or so.  We came slowly home, punching our way through the deep snow.

Perhaps our long full length slog through similar stuff yesterday wore us down.  Today there is more snow, a denser crust, and all traces of past passages had been wiped clean.  Yesterday we followed old trails.

 

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