Follow The Tracks

catYes! Follow the tracks. In the words of Ernest Thompson Seton, “Look ever for the track….it is the priceless, unimpeachable record of the creature’s life and thought in the oldest writing known on earth.”

Follow the tracks. Leave the city. Climb into the chaparral. Walk among the scrub oak, watching for signs. Claw marks low on a gnarled tree trunk. A trace of scat. Scratch marks on the ground.

And at last, look there! A print, scalloped front and back! Four toes, no claw marks.

Another, and another. Sometimes seeming to be made by a two-legged animal!

A wild cat, hunting as it goes, stalking silently through the dwarf forest, setting its forefeet cautiously down among the crackling leaves, then bringing its hind feet silently down in the same tracks.

Follow the tracks! Step carefully. Quietly. Become what you are seeking to find.

Yes. Stretch out on a low tree branch. Narrow your yellow cat-eyes into wary slits. Creep softly into the life of … the bobcat.

Say, it is Spring. But perhaps a barren one, after a long dry Winter. Your kittens are newly born, eyes and ears still closed as they peacefully snooze among the dry leaves and grasses of the den you have carefully prepared inside the hollow tree trunk.

catYou stand guard. There is always danger. The young, especially in peril.

The thick-furred , heavy-bodied male who came caterwauling around you in midwinter might return, hungry enough to kill his own offspring.

So you stay ever watchful, with your own stomach rumbling and the kittens mewing for milk. You keep one eye out for danger, the other for food.

But there is no rabbit, no ground squirrel. Even the mice are scarce. Every night it seems you must travel farther from the den to bring back a bit of meat the little growing kittens have begun to clamor for.

Then there is the night when you return to no anxious meows of kittens in the den.

Danger has struck in the dark of the night. Was it the silent return of your mate? Or the quietly stalking coyote? Or perhaps the great-horned owl, on silent wings and stiletto claws with its own hungry young to feed.

There is no sign. No clue left behind….

Driven by your own hunger, you turn your back on the empty den, and move on. Under the dark of night with no moon, cautiously in the fullness of its light, you cover many more miles then your usual marked territory, seeking whatever you can find to fill your belly.

catThe seasons turn…

The time of mating comes again…

And a new Spring follows, wet and green…

Among the bright blossom of clover and fireweed outside the den, your new kittens grow fat and playful. And you teach them the tricks of the hunt.

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