Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Animals Know

Maybe it was my dad telling me when I was a child that the first thing he did every morning was look out the window. Maybe it was spending so much time outdoors as a child, and camping a lot as an adult. Maybe it was reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, reading about how a Native American man clued Pa in to the coming severe winter, based on signs he could see from the animals. Maybe it was all of that, but I've learned both to love nature and also to realize that animals often know when a storm is coming. We may know, with all our science, but so do they, it seems.

I remember some years ago, a couple days before a hurricane was predicted to hit the East Coast, we happened to take a short walk in a state park Something seemed "off", but I couldn't figure out what it was. That night, at the hotel, it dawned on me what it was. We had seen no small animals in the woods, no salamanders, no rabbits. We had heard no unseen woodland creatures rustling the leaves, no birds tweeting or calling. When we arrived home, there were no squirrels in sight, as there usually were. It seems they had all taken shelter ahead of the hurricane. 

This morning, with a snowstorm predicted, and schools and government offices closed, I got up to nothing happening. I wondered if the weather forecasters had gotten it wrong. 

I looked out the window to see a lone large animal in a neighbor's yard. I think it was a buck. Since moving here, I have often seen a deer family, doe and fawns, acting at home, nibbling, and then gracefully running off. But, this morning, it was a lone buck, walking, perhaps cautiously. It seemed almost as if he was taking something in or figuring something out. 

A little later, I stepped outside to take a look around and heard a cacophony of birds. A whole flock was up in a tree, some joining them, some taking off, and soon they all took off in the same direction. 

And then the snow began in earnest. I don't know where the birds were going, but I think they knew what was coming.