Survival Lessons

turkeys walking in the snow
The tracks were large
and clumsy – almost ancient –
as if a herd of small dinosaurs,
lost in the present, had wandered
through the fresh morning snow.

What an odd set of footprints, I pondered.

Leading away from the steep slope
that drops sharply to the stream,
the three-toed time travelers
veered into a clearing, briefly,
then turned and trudged on into the forest.

Wild turkeys, I realized. Of course.

Sometimes I could sense them in the woods,
dark shapes, prattling and bobbing,
always elusive, ever watchful.
Generations and millennia taught them well:
it was always best to stay out of sight.

I spied them in the meadow once, feasting on grubs.

There were six, or seven, maybe a few more.
Alas, I was not invisible to their keen eyes.
In tight formation, they glided across the field –
tiny dinosaurs, clucking softly –
and disappeared into the safety of the woods.

I began to notice curious sounds at dusk.

Utter ruckus from the hilltop every evening.
It would start with low level chatter, then
the trees would shake, leaves falling like rain.
Crashing. Flapping. Gobbling. Then stillness,
and the quiet of night would descend.

One day I witnessed the spectacle from the stream below.

Far above, at the embankment’s crest
a lone hen babbled and bobbed, hesitating.
Then, in a breathtaking display of survival instinct,
she launched herself into a nearby tree,
coming to rest precariously in its protective boughs.

It was a glorious defiance of physics.

In flight, wings splayed against the fading light,
her soaring silhouette resembled the fossil remains
of archaeopteryx, her ancestral mentor.
She settled into the darkness with the rest of the hens,
safe from fox and bobcats, safe until light.

Survival sometimes requires a leap of faith.

Carol Wolf

Carol Wolf is a graphic designer and fine artist living in the woodlands of northwestern NJ.  Carol’s artwork and writing explores the natural world, seasons, and the passage of time.