In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Evidence of things not seen

"There are tracks right next to the porch," Greg pointed out the window. The snow was not fresh but we hadn't tramped around in it much. Now we could see the tracks there, and once we started looking we saw more tracks leading toward a shed, crossing the familiar tracks of the deer.  

Outside we found tracks leading to the picket fence, then along the narrow space next to the house, in what is supposedly a protected wildflower garden.  We saw tracks leading to a stone wall, and between a stone wall and a hollow beneath the old pear tree. Those tracks looked as if the animal had entered a den under the pear tree. I remembered that last spring we had heard eerie sounds coming from beneath the pear tree. Now I wondered whether the sounds had been from a nest of new-borns. 

But new-born what?  Searching the internet for clues, we discovered that these tracks were what's called "directly registered," meaning the hind feet strike on top of the front feet tracks, so that there's a single line of tracks.  Only cats and foxes leave this pattern.  Both live in the Tobeatic Wilderness in southwest Nova Scotia and have been seen closer to Shelburne. There have been rumours of a bobcat sighting on the island. And I did think I glimpsed a fox the first summer we were here. But after somebody told me there weren't any here,  I closed my mind to the fox. 

Most of the time I blithely go around assuming that what I see is all there is to see.  But since I don't know what to look for I miss seeing all kinds of things. Or if I see something unusual I reject it because it doesn't fit with what I think I know.  This is what I fondly think of as my rational self.  The animal tracks remind me how little of the world I see, how narrow is my vision.

We knew that the deer and the sheep come by here at night and that snakes are in hibernation beneath the house.  But until today I didn't realize that there are other wild animals -- unknown wild animals --  that encircle our house in the darkness, like magical dreams, while we sleep. They have been walking around the house since it was built, I think.  

They are among our nearest neighbours even though we've never met.  Sometimes they leave a sign that they were here, and once in a long while we notice it. 


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