Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When It's Springtime in the Shenandoah Valley ...

It’s spring here, or at least the calendar says it’s spring. 

 The weather alternates between sunshine and snow flurries, the daffodils are frostbitten and stunted up here on the mountain, even the lettuce I planted three weeks ago is confused.  

 We are two weeks behind town here in our blooming seasons in the best of springs, and this has not been the best of springs. 

 Some things maintain their usual cycles, though.  The road into town is daily littered with at least one or two small bodies awaiting disposal by vulture and crow.  This is the birthing season, when skunks and raccoons have filled their dens with new kits and the year old males are shoved out into the world to fend for themselves.  

 And since we have inserted ourselves into most of their habitats it is unfortunately natural that we find them crowded into ours.  We pave two and four-lane roads through their fields and forests and the young males find themselves facing an unfamiliar and terrifying realm. 

Think of them as teenage boys stumbling into a grown-up world they have no knowledge of, and perhaps have a little more patience on the roads in February, March and April.  I laugh when I call spring "Stupid Young Male Skunk Season," but it is always "Stupid Human Drivers Season."
Coyotes, too, give birth around this time, and from the dens that ring the property around the house, come a cacophony of squeaks and whines and growls that keep the dogs on edge.  Unlike the smaller animals, we don’t see the coyotes as road kill.  In fact, we rarely see the coyotes at all, although we can hear them throughout the year.   

And there was that one winter when, instead of just seeing tracks everywhere, I saw the almost ghostly silhouettes of a half a dozen coyotes through the blanket of a thick snowstorm, racing in a head-to-tail line at line at the edge of the trees just past the garden.  

We are in their world.