The Fox and the Vole: A Snow Thought


The world is hard-shell icing around my house. The snow sparkles in the thin light and single-digit temperatures make me think about untenable environments. There are moments in our lives when we are breaking through the candied snowscape, up to our knees with the crust scraping our shins. Each step herculean, we have to remind ourselves that things might get better soon—the snow will melt one day.

The other day a fox hopped up on a rock outside my kitchen window.  Remaining in taut, watchful motion, he leapt up through the air to earn the perfect arc and dove nose first into the crusty snow. Up he came with a vole.

I’m sympathetic to both sides of this situation.

Under the crusty snow, voles and other small creatures can live in relative comfort because the temperature remains around 32 degrees, thanks to that shell and the inches of insulation between the frigid outside air and the tunnels at ground level.

Back to untenable environments. The fox trots so lightly that he skips across the crust. The vole tunnels underneath and is warm where it appears cold. It makes me think about how we navigate difficulties. Sometimes we are all brute strength and ignorance, plowing through the obvious obstacle. And sometimes we should remember to tread lightly, immerse ourselves in the environment, or wait awhile to step into it at all.

Even so, sometimes the fox will get the vole. Sometimes we break through the snow. Always, the season shifts, the leaves come out, and there is an opportunity to try again.


White world,
Snow whirling,
My crunching steps.
Burning beetle trees assault my senses.

The whinging 2-stroke whine
Blading by,
Dogs pulled close,
diesel fumes.

Then just wind.
Snow globe flakes
A rainbow glitter,
Crows cawing.

The dogs are deep under snow,
Then with deer bounds,
Emerging frosted and

Another month and then what?
Snowflakes traded for rain?
White melts for green?
Motors in another world?

My brother, and me, in the Green Tunnel.
Dogs back in the world of white.
A backpack, my two feet,
“And miles to go before I sleep.”

About Leaving


My friend and I were joking over texts last night about being a “ying” to the other’s “yang.” I was cooking up a special “last” dinner as my husband packed for yet another long training that will keep us apart for months. My friend and I are Myers-Briggs “twins” except for that last letter where she is a “P”and I am a “J.” That makes her the one who goes with the flow and I’m a pretty rigid planner—qualities we admire in each other.

But planning for yet another leaving makes me weary. He’s leaving. I leave in the middle.  His is training for work. Mine involves a conference, three and a half weeks of a section hike with my brother while he thru hikes the Appalachian trail, and an academic lecture for me at the end. My “J” is in full swing. There’s a suit for the later talk swinging its way down I-70, hanging in Vern’s truck. That means I have to see him at some point. That makes the leaving a little less difficult. I’ll mail the suit I’ll carry to the first event back home. And in the middle will be me, my backpack, and my brother. I’ve planned for rain and cooking, sleeping and hiking, everything but the part where I will enjoy the woods of Georgia, North Carolina,  Tennessee as well as the company of the adult version of my brother—my friend.

Vern’s departure, this morning, was the first milestone of an eventful spring I’ve been planning for almost a year.

I’ve written about change quite a bit in this space. Change is wrestling with ying and yang. Most days I would like to be right here, making a home with the man I love. But both of us also want to be making a life together. A life worth living.

And so he’s leaving, for a while, and I am too. He will come back a fully trained ranger. I will come back having learned more about writing as well as talked about Willa Cather. Also I will have a few hundred miles of the “Green Tunnel” beneath my feet and a stronger bond with my sibling. All of our lives will be fuller for the experiences we gave them.

But what is it about leaving? Maybe it’s because it lets us come home.


Surfaces lie.
Smooth and perfect,
Hiding what scampers

Clear paths offer
Direction through,
And around,
Undisturbed landscape.

Field mice tunneling in snow.
Water sliding beneath ice.
Rabbits huddled in holes.
Feelings under a face.