February 29, 2008

In which the deer mock me

Made it through another night, this one easier than the last, partly because I was more tired, partly because I'm getting used to how things sound here, and partly because I was hugely entertained with reading all of the comments on yesterday's post. It was pretty gripping reading, hearing about the differences in people and how they feel about being alone. To answer a few questions:

1. No. I don't have a firearm and dude, do I feel good about that.
2. Yes, I thought about bringing the chainsaw and axe into the bedroom, but considering that I don't know how to use a chainsaw and (as I proved yesterday as I attempted to cut up some wood for the fire) I have no talent for the axe (I hit the log about 1 time out of 10, and even then, never in the same spot) bringing those items into the bedroom only arms the axe murderer. (Who I presume would have not gone into this line of work did he not have pretty mad axe skills.) I left 'em in the shed, where there is at least a locked door between me and them.
3. Yes. I agree. Zombies do not rampage in the freezing temperatures. Far more of a summer risk.
4. Yes. Braving the night and the cold and my fear to see how many stars there are? Totally worth the angst.


I spent the better part of yesterday writing, but was so interested in the woods that I took a bunch of hikes. This place sits on part of the Canadian Shield and the ground is mostly made up of huge rocky outcroppings, crevices and slides. (It's Precambrian Rock, some of the oldest on earth, been here for somewhere between 4.5 billion and 540 million years.) In the summer, it's treacherous to walk on, you wouldn't do it in the dark for sure, and in the wintertime it's extra dangerous, since the places that are good to walk on are hidden by snow, and so are the bad places. A section that looks like billowy soft snow is actually rocks, and It would be very easy to step into a rocky crevice or off the edge of a big rock with it's edges disguised by snowdrift.


Luckily for me, this place is filthy with deer (and something else that I keep seeing the tracks of. Maybe bobcat?) and the deer know way more than I do. To walk in the woods I just get on a deer track and don't step off. I walk where they walk.


I was out several times, because temperatures were so low yesterday that I had to be careful not to be outside for more than 20 minutes. (The weather station actually said 15 minutes, but I didn't think that they allowed for my layer of alpaca and wool.) I would hike out 10 minutes, then turn around and come back, warm up and try again.

On one walk I tried to make it to a ridge I could see, one that overlooked the river, but I couldn't go straight there (the deer are apparently not plotting their routes for efficiency.) I stood there in the woods, with the light of the day fading, my feet and cheeks starting to get very cold, and I looked for deer track that would take me where I wanted to go. Over to my left I could see the track of one deer who had gone off on her own, and I stepped off of the broader deer track (it's like a deer highway there are so many footprints) and went that way. I hadn't taken more than ten steps when I came to a place where the deer had taken a long stride, and I (with my legs that are not quite as long as a deer's) stepped between her hoofprints.

Instantly, my leg shot down into a crack in the rock, and in the beat of a heart I'd thrown myself forward (just like if you fall through the ice. LIE DOWN.) and stopped falling. I crawled forward, my heart pounding and looked back at the crack. It wasn't very big at all and I felt immediately stupid for having been so scared. I sat there for just a few minutes, gathering myself and looked back at the deer track. There, right before the crack, were two deer prints exactly side by side. That's not a step. That's a jump. The deer, in her infinite wisdom, had jumped over the crack, and I had failed to notice. I could have easily broken an ankle or gotten my foot caught, which is a bonehead move at the best of times, but could be deadly in temperatures like this.

I picked myself up and brushed most of the snow off so I didn't get colder faster, and I started to walk back to the house, following the deer track precisely, stepping exactly where they had stepped. As soon as I could, I got back on the big deer track and I stayed there.

Back in the house I made tea and knit for a bit, while I watched night come, and I thought about what it's like to be isolated like this in weather like this. It just won't suffer fools, and I can see how it would be pretty easy to kill yourself just by getting lost. I'm sure that given an unlimited amount of time I could always find my way back, but when it's cold you don't have an unlimited amount of time to apply your intellect to the problem. If I get lost up here I've got twenty minutes to solve the thing and after that it could cost me a toe or two. I think this must make you smart, because if you're not smart enough to realize that there's no way to really get the upper hand on nature, then natural selection is going to take you out....


and I'm pretty sure the last thing you're going to hear is deer laughing at you.

Posted by Stephanie at February 29, 2008 2:21 PM