To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Year 3: Part 1: Post 7: Tracking in Winter

It's good to be able to go tracking with Rick again. While I was off campus this winter I kept up my habit of going tracking every few days, just as I kept up my physical exercises and the mental and spiritual exercises Joy has me doing (that sounds lovely, doesn't it? I exercise for Joy!). It seems like a lot, but I didn't have anything else to do except my various practices and assignments. No classes, no job...I could nap whenever I wasn't doing assignments, if I wanted to, and sometimes I did.

But it's good to have someone else to track with again.

We don't always go together in the literal sense. Sometimes we go out at around the same time but to different places and then compare notes. Sometimes I take him to see tracks I'm confused about and sometimes I tag along and he shows me what he can see, which is still always more than what I see. I'm not actually sure whether Rick wants my company on these outings. I don't think he ever minds being alone, and yet he seems to like being my guide into the world of tracking.

That world is so much bigger than I thought it was when I first started.

Last year was mostly about identification--figuring out which species did what was easy the first time I went out, but it got harder later as snow conditions changed. I was learning to notice detail and I was mostly using that detail to identify who made the track and which gait they were using. I liked following the story of one particular animal as it moved across the landscape.

This year I guess I'm getting a wider, deeper view. I want to know when a certain track was laid down and why the animal was using the gait it was. In a field full of tracks, what order were they made? I'm getting very interested in snow conditions--how do snow conditions change the look of the track when it is first laid down, and how do changing conditions alter the track as it ages? I've started copying over Lilac's notes (she's a mastery candidate interested in weather) so I can see when it was last windy or above freezing, or anything else that can alter but not obscure the snow surface. That way I can tell when a track was laid down more precisely and I can see the story on the show laid out clearly in time as well as space.

I'm also getting more into using my other senses besides vision.

Basically, I've started sniffing everything. I learned last year that foxes and porcupines have distinctive scents to their urine. I've just now learned that so do deer. Or, at least some deer do--the scent is slightly pine-like (it's not unpleasant at all), so maybe only deer that eat pine needles pee piny urine.

I come back from these trips all excited. I run around telling everybody what I saw and where and how I saw it, so there are a few people getting interested and wanting to learn tracking, too. I tried suggesting that Charlie do a second tracking seminar (he already does one) but he actually told me I should teach it myself, that I probably know more about tracking, at this point, than he does--which was pretty incredible to hear and I'm not sure if I believe it. Interestingly, he didn't make my doing such a thing an assignment. He hasn't given me any new assignments, just keeps saying I should keep up the good work. He just said that if I think there should be another tracking mini-class, I should make it happen myself.

There's no rule about who in the community can teach these things. Novices don't usually teach, but there are exceptions, and Charlie has had me teach some things before. The only thing is that nobody is obligated to attend your class, if they don't think you're any good. So there's a bit of a threat to the ego involved with volunteering.

Still, I didn't have to think about it before too long before I decided I wanted to do it. Rick agreed to help me, and we both talked to Sharon about getting on the schedule. At her suggestion, we actually made it a workshop, four meetings. The first meeting will be scheduled next time tracking conditions are good and we'll go out and show people tracks. The next two meetings we'll do mostly indoors, with visual aids and models, and then the last one will be in good snow conditions again.

So, that is exciting.

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