Monday, December 7, 2009

Spider Eyes and Other Unexpected Gifts

There’s something magical about the first snow of the season. I pull on a pair of Muck boots and stride into a world that’s slowly becoming a fairy land. Duke pup runs after me and the snow is just deep enough to make him look like a fish surfing the waves. We walk over to the edge of the woods, and while he’s snuffling and snorting his way through every drift, I inspect the tracks that squirrels and a lone fox have left. Foxes walk by placing their back feet exactly where their front feet have trod. This creates a single line of tracks that runs across the snow like a neat row of stitches. Finding these tracks is an unexpected gift. Nature is constantly dishing up some wonderful surprises.

For example:
One foggy night I saw spider eyes reflected in the headlights of my car. At first I didn’t know what I was seeing. My headlights kept picking up small green sparks on the damp road. When curiosity got the better of me, I pulled over and the beam of my flashlight illuminated hundreds of hairy wolf spiders scuttling back and forth. Later I read that, although a wolf spider has eight eyes, only the two largest reflect light. I never did figure out why so many spiders were out dancing a hoe-down on the wet pavement.

Another time, on a damp spring morning, I spotted a large group of earthworms mating on the berm. Somehow, over two hundred earthworms had signaled to each other that it was time to stretch out of their holes. They were lying cheek to cheek (or more scientifically, clitellum to clitellum) in the dew spangled grass. When I looked it up, I discovered that earthworms are attracted to the vibrations of other worms nearby. All I can say is that there must have been an amazing worm party going on.

Since I moved to the mountains I have witnessed an eagle plummeting from the sky to catch a fish, a praying mantis eating her mate (head-first!) and a monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I have discovered turtle eggs buried in a warm rock nest, a dead otter washed up in a flood, and an owl pellet at the base of a hollow tree. I have collections of heart-shaped rocks, turtle-shaped rocks, screw-shaped fossils(crinoids) and cone-shaped fossils (porifera). I own a coyote skull and a complete cow skull. And, I am jealous of my husband who once saw a golden eagle snatch a rabbit right out from under the noses of his beagles.

These are my treasures. But, I still have a long list of things I hope to see. I want to watch an eagle catch a rabbit. I want to discover a hummingbird’s nest. I’d like to find a fossilized leaf imprint, and collect the complete skeleton of some small animal. It is wonderful to have so many things to look forward to. This is indeed a rich world in which I live.


  1. What a wonderful the literal meaning of the word wonderful. DH and I were kayaking near Pender Island, BC, and floated right past a bald eagle eating a fish. We were within 10-12 feet of the huge bird and could hear the ripping of the flesh off the fish. He was totally unconcerned by our presence, but when two other eagles swooped in, he warned them away.

    I will remember that feeling of wonder and amazement forever.

  2. Thanks. Wow, lucky you. I love your posts, too, since I am a teacher.


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