December 2007 turned out to be the second snowiest on record for most of New England. By the end of it, we had received over six feet of snow here in Central Maine. January 2008 promises to follow suit. We welcomed the first day of the year with a storm that produced another 16 inches. Heaping piles from this latest storm are everywhere: they’ve been plowed up and over mailboxes and stop-signs, fences and low-standing trees. Ari’s house is completely submerged now, as is our woodpile.
We spent yesterday afternoon and this morning looking for signs of movement in the woods. Not a single track to be found: no deer, no rabbits, not even the stalwart moose. The well-trod animal paths through the woods have been rendered impassable—at least temporarily. I think everyone is waiting for some other creature to start packing down trail.
In the meantime, those animals who need to move about seem to be sticking to human pathways. The plowed roads around our house, for instance, show an increase of deer traffic. Ari picks up their scent at once and sends us out along their path: rank and file in a parade that passed hours ago. If the tracks leading us down the road are any indication, we’re certainly not the first human/canine pair to follow this new trail. That only excites the pup further.
Ari can see the ghost of each of these travelers: she can read their species and sex, their health and state of mind. This same road that strikes me as winter-still is cocktail-party busy as far as she is concerned. She slows us way down and takes deep breaths at each impression left by paw and hoof. Left by our fellow pilgrims, these marks tell Ari we are part of a collective sojourn. It’s a journey I can only imagine. So I step in line behind her and let this juvenile dog lead me down the quiet road, knowing that in a 100 years I will never know all she has learned on the first day of this one.