Trails have a sort of magic about them. There is something important about stepping where other people or creatures have stepped before. There is a little bit of power in a footprint – it identifies us, it’s an impression of us, a little of our energy is spent there, in that bit of light mud.

Each time I have followed a deer trail in the woods, or find myself sharing footprints with another animal, it sends a small thrill deep within me.

A few days ago, I sludged all the way to the back of the yard through a foot of snow to dispose of the kitchen composting scraps. I sludged back in the same steps, because it was easier than forging a new path.

Last night, I followed those same steps again to dispose of the compost, and was delighted to see deer hoof-prints in my steps, following along, making use of the trail I had blazed. There was one large set and one small set, neatly stepping in my steps. I followed upon their steps, having a sort of conversation and sharing space but not time.

Throughout my life, whenever I have seen more exotic tracks (big cats, foxes, elk, bear,) I marvel to think, “this animal was right here, standing where I am standing, breathing, being, hunting, foraging… right here in this space.” There’s a little power, there, a little magic. I can almost hear their breath.

We have a fox that regularly rounds through the back of our yard. In fresh snow, I see her trail. In my mind, I can see her sniffing, sniffing, sniffing.

How lucky to still have some touch of the wild, even amid our built-up lives.


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