Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow tracks and secret lives

Looking out at the snow today I am reminded of Richard Mabey in  his chapter "The Map and the Word", writing about how snow changes the way we perceive our surroundings.

Looking out of my window now at the criss crossings of footsteps, it is apparent that people are wandering in unpredictable directions, and you can no longer tell where the line of the pavement and the road edges are.

Mabey is writing about a more rural environment than mine, but the effect is the same.  "Snow redraws the landscape" he writes, and animal tracks make their own map overlaid over ours.  Our carefully constructed environment has been wiped clean by the snow and suddenly we can see the maps of the movements of a parallel world, usually unseen, that of wildlife, as animals draw their own routes across the clean white canvas.

The morning after a snowfall, as Mabey puts it, animal tracks are the "footnotes to the events of the night. "  We are suddenly aware of the wild lives around us, even in the city, creatures that do not follow our rules and makes their own paths.

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