My newest obsession? Snowshoe hares
I take a deep breath. 2021, here we go. This is going to be the year. I can just feel the excitement bubbling beneath my feet, escalating with every step I take. The world is a trampoline, and I’m its humble snowshoe hare.
The cool January air hits my face as the albedo of the glistening grass turns the night to day… or is it the other way around? Who even knows whether it's 1 a.m. or p.m. anymore? My phone shames me as I turn it on, telling me that I have, in fact, messed up my sleep schedule pretty badly.
I take a step, then another, hearing the cracking ice beneath my feet. Even my smallest movements, most miniscule nose-twitches, manifest as thundering echoes through the hollow landscape. I don’t know what it is about a snow-blanked landscape, but whenever I walk in one, I feel like I’m living inside a tranquil glass dome in a Christmas-themed gift shop.
I also know that if I were truly a snowshoe hare, I would soon be… how do I phrase this kindly… yeeted (yoten?) from the face of the planet. Every careless sound I’d inevitably make would go straight into some lynx’s ear, and before I knew it, I would be hopping for my life. Not even the purest camouflage could save me then. I instinctively take a small hop, my every breath held in fee by such frightening thoughts.
I’m sitting on the sidewalk now, just… relaxing of course, as one does during such snowy weather. My back hurts, my whole body aches. Don’t mind me, I didn’t fall. I was merely using that unforeseen frictionless surface as a launchpad to a graceful floor-exercise landing. My grimace? That’s from how… proud I am to have made that artful advancement, of course.
“Ow”... what a strange word. I know what it’s supposed to mean: an interjection of personal pain. However, I’ve somehow, over the course of the past 19 years of my life, conditioned myself into saying it in response to literally anything that even remotely involves the concept of linear momentum.
A ball hits me? Ow. I hit the floor? Ow. The ball hits the floor? Ow. The ball, floor, and I are actually all part of a rocket blasting off in consensus with the rocket equations? Ow. Ow. Ow.
The way I felt about “ow” as a child really paid off in mechanics. Every once in a while I’d see an exam or homework question that, long before I realize what I’m even supposed to do, would make me say “ow” under my breath. From that, I would quickly figure out that I was, for example, supposed to apply the conservation of linear momentum.
This would be my first trip outside the house in a snowstorm in the past six months. I can hardly believe how little snow provokes me anymore.
As a self-diagnosed Southern boy, I remember how my school district back in Texas canceled school for two weeks from four inches of precipitation. I remember refreshing my Virginia school district’s website in excitement waiting for a snow day announcement.
Those were the times, the times when I thought a single exam was going to determine my fate, whether I would end up as a hare or a lynx. Now I know the truth: no matter what, I was destined to be the hare. Sure, I could have passed off as long as I wanted to as a lynx. But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the hippity-hoppity joy that comes from feeling like a Disney Princess’s animal sidekick? Surely you haven’t seen any lynxes lately in such a film? But hares and rabbits? They’re literally everywhere!
Okay, sure, maybe being a hare conjures up images of the base of the food web. Or perhaps it calls back to the ill-fated hare of tortoises past. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Each hare must determine their own fate through wit or art, I suppose.
I walk past a pristine patch of snow, probably at least six inches tall. I want to make a snow angel. I admire the snow’s purity, of course, but I never had a chance to treasure my own before becoming one of those grown-ups. I’ve only made a snow angel once, in fourth grade, but I feel nostalgic for an experience I hardly even had.
It would be a real shame if a car got stuck in it, I thought. It would be a real shame if a snow shovel and boiling water had to get involved, I thought, definitely not foreshadowing future visions past.
I want to make a snow angel. I really do, except it’s the middle of a pandemic and all of the clean-up and mask-wet-from-melted-snow-wearing would make the task logistically too complex to be worth it. But if I were a snowshoe hare, I would 1. be able to do the aforementioned thing and 2. not have to worry about catching COVID-19. Nature is healing, y’all.
So, just think about Mother Nature the next time you have to get a nasal swab, dear reader. Actually, please don’t. I regret stating that advice. I can never outlive the weight of my past suggestions-made-in-jest because I tend to remember them too clearly until they become serious, precisely because I made such comments in a very specifically cursed-but-nevertheless-joking way.
Maybe this coming semester is the semester of animals. Maybe I’ll write each column through the mindset of a particular animal as I live out my very human experiences. We can simply have an “animal of the week” every two weeks or so instead of last year’s #deep question of the week. Maybe if I run this transition smoothly enough, you’ll hardly notice a perspective shift at all.
The world may be a never-ending trampoline, but what if I took a few deep breaths instead? What if I stopped jumping around all day only to slink into my familiar hiding spot each night? What if I slept as quiet as a hare, out in the open, without a sound, without a fear? Now lettered lynx, tell your mirage: how sees him, my camouflage?