By Lisa Loucks-Christenson
January 01, 2019
Today I went back to work on my Struggling for Existence Documentary, a story I'm writing about the wildlife and their struggles to live in the valley set against unfair trapping, poachers, illegal hunting, and the animals' ongoing fight for survival, something I started in 2005 and have worked on for years.
In the last few months, it took opening my new bookstore and gallery (which turned into two stores and one online store); my own health emergency and unexpected surgeries; my families health battles; a host of worldwide customers looking for health answers and fighting to survive to make me realize the timeliness of this story. I plan to finish this project, this year, if it’s God's will.
I know my old dog, wanted to come with me today--that was the plan. Although he didn't always start the documentary each year with me, most of the years he did. He'll be 15-years-old this year, old for a German Shepherd, but still so young at heart.
I knew he couldn't walk far, maybe just a few steps into the field, but it would be enough, and at the very least, he'd enjoy the ride. It me took all the way up until the last minute before I decided he had to stay home. He knew the second I changed plans. He knew my thoughts, where I was going.
He had that knowingness that said he wanted to be with me. It wasn't easy, but I walked away knowing I'd be making the trip without him. It was the hardest thing I had to do today. I promised him he'd be with me in spirit--and he was. I drew his image in my notebook, I dedicated this year to him--my #1 field dog.
The temperature was 5 degrees when my husband and I left Rochester. It's our anniversary today, and starting the project with me has become a trip we like to take together. When we arrived in the valley, I walked along our old paths and observed the changes, and took note things I want to investigate further. The woods were full of new stories, new creatures I'll meet on my outdoor beat this year.
As I hiked out, I noticed something I didn't expect. A skeptic would be hard-pressed to deny--this time--what I'd already proven was a real presence in the valley. This time, unlike my older evidence: plaster casts, photos of mud tracks, field cameras shots, personal observations, video . . . was something winter preserved in its own mold.
There, glazed in royal blue ice was solid proof of my nemesis: the cougar. It unnerved me, some, to find the tracks the first day seemed like it were both a blessing and curse. It meant to me: use caution on the days ahead. I'd hoped by now it had moved on.
The sun shimmered through the trees casting moving black shadows across the cougars' tracks, and there was a long trail of them, each track was dotted with tiny clumps of snowflakes huddled on the mirrored surface. The story was clear: there was a deer that walked along its path, then slid when it heard a predator. The predator leaped and slid which explains the deeper set of tracks, the landing tracks. I studied how the cougars' first toe was turned far to the left, that's it how it landed--all weight on it the pad smeared as it slid, and how it corrected its slide, graceful and balanced like a cat, and took after the deer. That's what it's tracks shared.
Everywhere the cougar stepped it left his story, no denying the pad or toe imprints, as large as my palm and thumbs, it was easy to see it slid in the same spot as the deer. A deer that got away.
Oddly, as I looked closer at the image I was shooting, I noticed a light shade of tan, and two spots that looked like cougar eyes and its head, ears stared back--all formed in the earth under its ice track. The image was so stunning it took my breath away.
My cautious nature forced me to look up, to double check the trees above me. Lucky for me, this time the trees were clear, which left me to study the track with the latent image of a cougar I've crossed paths with many times all locked in a glossy archive that it still shared my path.
It was a powerful message for me today. I thank God for it, and for the 28 years, I've shared with my husband. Happy Anniversary, David. Thanks for being my driver today.
The cougar track will make a great back cover image for the book, that or it could make a great opening photo for today's story, or maybe a cover for my fiction series I write, set here, in the ghost town of Whitewater Falls, WOLVES OF WHITEWATER FALLS, one of the side series: Soul of a Cougar.
Now you know where I get my inspiration.
See you on the journey,