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Another Long, Cold Night

Outside right now, it's 31 degrees, not too bad for the last day of December, but the TV weatherman says it will be much colder in the days to come. Earlier, there were coyotes in the field across the creek. It sounded like they were hot on the trail of something, and by now, the feast is probably on. Blood and guts and hot breath from animals desperate for flesh and blood and heat from calories taken from another living creature. It's something primal. This is not something that most people think about when they think about nature, but it is a vital part. The truth that nature is not always beautiful, but is also violent and dangerous, is something that we often overlook.

Survival of a species is not always pretty, but neither is the other side of things, namely disease and starvation. We all know what it is like to compete for a better job or more pay, or even for a mate in some instances, but what about competing for our own survival? What if we had to find our own food, either foraging for it, or killing something to survive? I don't mean hunting in a sense that we think of now, but the kind where we must take any opportunity to prey on a vulnerable creature, and at the same time, something that would be easy prey for us, so that our exertion of energy is minimum. Most of the time that would mean something sick or injured. Doesn't sound too appetizing, does it?

And then there's the whole surviving the elements thing. That wouldn't exactly be a day at the beach, would it? I get cold now just walking the dog. It is clear to me that I'm not as tough as I thought I was. Those days of sitting in a frozen tree all day, or fishing from a boat in the sleet and snow for striped bass took place long before I started taking blood pressure medicine. I have to wrap up now, and head back in much earlier than before. I used to make fun of my poor grandmother for wearing a sweater around in the summertime, but I'm not laughing anymore. Thankfully, cold snaps are usually short lived in this part of the country. The upstate of South Carolina has all four seasons, so you can at least tell the difference, but the winters are not nearly as harsh as they are just a few hours north.

Yesterday, I watched a squirrel climbing into his bed just before dark. The squirrel put several hours, or even days into building its nest, as do the birds. I have found both nests blown from trees in high winds, but finding something like that is rare. I think whenever this happens, the creatures learn, and when the process begins again, their past mistakes are taken into consideration as they build the new nest. What would it be like to have to build a nest to stay warm? I can hardly build a habitable birdhouse out of plywood. By the time I could construct a debris shelter suitable enough to protect my family and my self from the elements, we would probably die from exposure. The animals and birds have to be expert shelter builders, there is a much smaller margin of error for them.

For all wild creatures, food and warmth are interconnected. A poorly nourished animal will freeze to death in winter, the low caloric intake means body heat loss. Same goes for us, in that to keep our body temperature up in extreme cold, we must take in more calories than we normally would. So while building that shelter, you'd better be eating good, too. I'm thinking that if you were having to build a shelter to stay warm, you wouldn't be running to the IHOP, or any such place. It would be more like attacking that field rat you saw while dragging brush, or even that squirrel building its nest. I would really have to be starving to go for the neighbor's cat, though.

It looks like this year will end cold, and that the New Year will begin cold, as well. My hope is that the cold won't hang around for long, though. I also hope that this year will not be as brutal as this past year was for some people. Just like we learn from the animals, we know what we need to do to survive. we've seen our nests on the ground before, and it's not a good feeling. So this year, lets hunker down, build those nests good and tight and wrap those we love in warmth, no matter the season or weather. Bring someone or something out of the cold, out of the pouring rain and driving wind, and feed them. Our species depends on how much love we have.

Thank you for taking time to read my ramblings through this past year. I'll have more to come, and hopefully the content will get better as we progress. Happy New Year!!!




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