We headed for our land in Ackley by way of Fleet Farm where we purchased knee-high rubber boots. I slipped mine on my feet. The scent reminded me of childhood days and brightly colored galoshes straddling street gutter rivers as pop-cycle stick boats raced to the sewer-grate at the corner.
At the farm field, the snow proved too deep for boots alone so we strapped on the snowshoes as well.
The snow was the old heavy spring snow that looked like granulated sugar on apple fritters, shiny with grease and sticky juice or snow-cone snow coarse and moist. You could see it melt.
Looking down at it, I was surprised by the amount of things living and walking in what I’d inaccurately assumed was barren coldness. Bugs, black spiders, fleas and such.
Mouse tunnels that used to run beneath the snow were exposed, showing a network I’d never suspected earlier this winter.
We followed an old snowmobile path with Tom in the lead.
“That’s skin,” he said, stopping. “And bone.”
“What?” I hurried to stand next to him, looking at the length of slightly furry hide that stuck out of the snow.
Tom put on a glove and picked up the upper jaw of what remained of a canine-type animal (dog, wolf, fox, coyote?). Whatever it had been, something, or perhaps several somethings, had made short work of it. One half of an upper jaw, some random curved skull pieces, and a few strips of hide with most of the fur—a dirty gray that reminded me of worn felt more than fur—were all that was left.
Tom and I stood in the bright sunshine for some time looking at the remains. Was it the wolf/dog/coyote whose tracks we’d followed on several other outings? What had killed it? What had eaten it? Why hadn’t we seen its remains earlier?
Tom set the bone where he’d found it. Carrying only our thoughts of what might have been, we left the remains where they were.
We’d come to check the stream.
Black Brook is a small creek whose tendrils wind through the northeast corner of our land like roots through soil. All winter long we’d listened to it burble under the snow, marveling at the volume of sound. Today, we could see the brook. Long stretches of old ice pushed against the maze of banks in a thick mixture of dirty yellow, white and green that was broken by deep patches of clear water running over blackened leaves. The brook flowed. Tiny suspended bubbles showed its path as it swirled above, below, beside, and through layers of ice.
We stood still, barely breathing, trying to catch the sound of flowing water. My heart beat loudly.
No birds chirped.
No breeze blew.
The sun beat down, making us glad of sunglasses. Warmed by exercise and weather, Tom took off his shirt.
We bent, heads cocked, listening to the silence, amazed.
All this melting and not a sound.