Go outside!

DeAnna on a snowy golf course

I’m not much of a Resolution sort, but the Challenge for this month over at the Self Portrait Challenge is to document your resolutions with self portraits. This has me thinking about what sort of things I’d like to do more or less of in the next year, and this is a picture of me this morning looking for interesting tracks in the fresh snow on the golf course down the road from our current apartment. No such thing as spending too much time outside, so I think I’ll stick with this for a resolution.

While I was out there, I found this interesting convergence of tracks in the snow. It looks like a raccoon playground.
many raccoon tracks in the snow

Not sure if it comes through in the small picture, but all those roughly in-line dark spots all through the center of the picture are raccoon tracks. They wander fairly aimlessly, sometimes a few different sets come together and create interesting spiral patterns. Were they playing? Was there something interesting to eat there? Are they doing crazy raccoon moon ritual dances by the light of the moon? You can click on this one for a closer view of the spiral pattern.
spiral of raccoon tracks

On my way back, I came across this fascinating creature looking for a place to hide from the snow.

full length pic of Northwest Salamander

Northwest Salamander

It’s a Northwestern Salamander, and this one is about 8 inches long, a hefty little guy. I don’t know what he was doing out in the snow. They’re cold-blooded, and this fellow was moving pretty slowly. After I took a few pictures, I picked him up with a stick (those glands behind his eyes secrete an irritating chemical that I didn’t want on my hands) and put him near the edge of a long rock overhang so that he could crawl under it for a while. His big dark body crawling across a huge meadow of snow was going to get him snatched up by a predator pretty quick. I thought that they hibernated under leaf litter for the winter, but when I just looked them up, it turns out that they are active year-round. I must have been thinking of ensatinas. I watched him for a while before I moved him and he was either looking for a place to curl up and rest or he was looking for food (or, of course, he could have been doing something that a non-amphibian mind can’t even conceive of). They eat little animals–bugs and stuff–and he was pocking his nose under every exposed rock that he came to. Watching him walk was extraordinary. I’ve seen them before, but never been able to watch them walk for so long or so slowly. With each step, the curl and uncurl of his long, graceful toes was one of those tiny beautiful amazing things that makes you believe in God.

As I left the golf course, I passed a group of 10 or 12 kids and a dog, all (except the dog) carrying various implements to be used for sliding down snow-covered hills. Most of the kids veered off when they saw me, heading for a different slope, but one of the older girls walked towards me.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Umm, sooooo. Is it, like, okay for us to sled here? I’ve never been here before, but it’s just that it’s snowing, and there are these hills, and…” And she gestured in such a way that I could see she realized the hopelessness of explaining to an adult just how it is that the amazing conjuction of snow and hills just made it necessary that they sled here.

“Yes, it’s fine,” I told her. And I hope that they got to sled a whole bunch before anyone who actually has any authority over the golf course told them that they had to stop.