By the morning light, the snow has slowly stopped falling. The tall evergreens had long since become vertical chevrons of white. So incredibly wondrous. And the silence. Even the howling in the tree tops had stopped whistling hours past. A silent white had settled everywhere..
Since the lane and parking were cleared over the yesterday, today, it was time for a walk down the hill to check the mail. Still, there was enough snow covering the drive to let one see the paw prints that had been left there. Clawed – cat or canine ? Maybe just a huge squirrel? Unlikely, they were canine of some sort, big sharp claws, like some black teeth sheathed on their paws. Ah - but there further on down the lane, the hoof prints of a deer, crossing the studios land. Going up hill –coming from the creek maybe, but how long ago?
Up on the plowed road, I look to see if the deer had continued there. Must have. Yup, there it gained the road and there, over there it traversed the roads terrace and continued on up the snow draped hill, under or over the fence line on the upper side. And there - the clawed paws went upwards as well..
Jumping in urgency through the snow, and there, another pair! Chasing the deer no doubt – coyotes? They have been seen in the region. Even heard at night. Over there, another set of paws bounding up the hill, and even there a fourth set!
The four sets of bounding claw prints didn't so much follow the deer tracks as converge through the forested hill side towards the deer's progress. But wait, it wasn’t one deer , but three, and one definitely young – given by the size of hoof print. How long ago was the family being pursued? Both groups lives could depend upon the outcomes. Up there over the hill, some time in the last 20 hrs. What was the outcome?
I don't hunt. My carnivorous tendencies are satisfied with eating my favourite sushi maki. I've never tracked an animal. So why, and how was I able to discern such a story this morning, from hoof and paw prints left in the snow traversing the studio property? This “ability” or tendency to read visual cues, to discern a storyline that increased in drama the more I found visual cues, lying there in the white silent snow- where does it spring form? . Is literature and our story telling a side effect of our hunting or hunted evolution?
Is that why we look at pictures, trying to read the visual cues of meaning, as I did with the animal tracks in the snow? Cross referencing cues that I didn't know I would recognize. Reading without words. Understanding the meaning left in the traces traversing the canvas of white snow.
Maybe art is but a by product of this seeking of meaning, a residue of a hunters evolutionary memory. Clues to life or death, not something one is likely to set aside. Our stories might be more rooted in our genealogy then we assume. Maybe it's like eyes to the front or eyes to the side, I wonder the difference the stories would be for either group.
© GAMcCullough 2013