Conditions: Clear and very cold.
In our house, it's always a marvelous night for a moondance, and that's not just because we're big Van Morrison fans. We love the crisp nocturnal light, the sense that we've stepped into the rhythms of another set of creatures, the mystery of what lies just out of view.
This week's combination of waning moon, big snow cover, and arctic chill has made for some pretty spectacular lunar viewing. So the caninaturalist and I set out to see what we could find in addition to the moonlight.
My idea was to head to our pine grove, where each morning we find the tracks of animals as diverse as house cats, fox, coyote, and deer. A certain someone, though, thought the grove looked a little too imposing in the dark.
So, instead, we stuck to the more open landscape along our roadside, where round fir trees let in enough light for one sometimes-timid dog to feel a little bit better about her chances for survival.
We found some great tracks--mostly deer--but no critters. We smelled what we thought was skunk (puzzling, considering that they pretty much hibernate this time of year). And we heard the hoot of a barred owl.
That distracted us for awhile. But once we had stuck our noses in most of the tracks, someone got bored. And lost her nerve. Ears flat, tail between the legs, she demanded we go home. We're going to be eaten, this look suggested. I pointed out that very few animals could eat a 45-lb dog. Sharks and killer whales, maybe. Lions. Tyrannosaurus Rex. None, I added, were likely to be found outside our little house on a cold winter's night.
But she wasn't having it. 20 minutes was all the moondancing time this dog needed. As far as she was concerned, there was only one light we needed to be celebrating, and that was the glow of a wood stove.
With temps like these, I guess I can't hardly blame her.