|Hoarfrost Where It Belongs|
|The Ignored Crow Tree|
|Horses in Fuzzy Sweaters|
|Driveway Glaciers Melting|
|Almost a Sunny Day|
|Stranger Slinking in the Dry Grass|
|Which One of Us is More Scared?|
|A Coyote Dog?|
|We Keep a Watchful Gaze on One Another|
|And Then It Was Gone|
They fly over head -- caw! caw! -- each passing by the pond, the barn and the tree I decorated for them. Baubles remain like unopened gifts. I'd take them down and spare my gilded ribbon exposure to the elements, but I'm not risking the drifts of snow that remain.
This is not snow for trekking. Snowshoes or cross-country skis would make it passable, but walking is treacherous. One moment you step across glistening crust, the next you break through and become entangled. I will stay on the icy worn trails and emerging bare patches.
Beyond Elmira Pond, the neighbor's horses trample the drifts and seek clumps of dry grass. Their winter coats are fuzzy as angora as if they put on full-body horse sweaters. Come spring, they will need a good currying.
Spring can't be too far away, after all the driveway glaciers are melting from underneath. Small pools and glacial streams form during the day. It's not sunny but the clouds are high enough to make the day feel expansive. The dogs bark and I think they have cabin fever.
But then I notice Bootsy, the barn cat. She's still and pressed against the outside wall of the garage not far from her kitty door. She's staring in the same direction as the dogs are barking. Wouldn't you know it? They are all focused on the barn where I thought I heard a monster last week.
With camera in hand -- if I can click Big Foot or a grizzly it might be worth my moment of terror -- I go outside. Bootsy dashes through her kitty door and I feel as though I've at least saved the cat. I stand at the fence and stare. Nothing. Dogs continue to bark.
Then I see it. A shape so cleverly still, so perfectly camouflaged that I thought it part of the wood pile. Inside the wood barn is...something.
As soon as it realizes that it has been seen, it zips out the structure in odd little leaps the way coyotes do when they hunt mice. How did it know I finally saw it? Did it smell my fear, a chemical reaction in my body, a subtle change in my stance? I didn't move or make a sound. I merely saw. How did it know?
In the light of day, it has a coyote muzzle and ears but a hound-like body with a cream chest and brindle coat. What the dickens is it? Dog is the obvious answer. Coyote dog is a possibility. Is it wild or domestic? Is it lost? This is not a critter I've seen before and I'm not comfortable standing in my snowy pasture looking at it looking at me.
It's not comfortable either. I'm not sure if my stranger is male or female. I'm not even sure if my stranger is scared or scary. It bounds away in those funny leaps and hops through the wires of the fence as if they were mere illusions, simply shadows of lines.
The stranger stops and stares. First at me then toward the highway. Maybe it isn't sure which one of us presents more danger. I opt to consider the stranger a lost dog and whistle. It trots down the road, then turns around and trots toward the place behind ours.
And then, the stranger disappears into the dry grass and trees, slinking away into nature as if it had never been here in solid form.
Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills.