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  • I know that even in my urban neighborhood, I live among wild creatures. They have weaseled (or, perhaps I should say, squirrelled) themselves into my chimney, hidden under my back porch and scurried around my compost bin, nibbled my clover and flat out stolen my tomatoes, and they sing proudly from the eaves of my front porch and the protective tubes of my rain gutters. The neighborhood turkeys squawk down the sidewalks, blocking traffic. I like to pay attention to them. But sometimes, they elude my efforts.

    A blanket of fresh snow changes that.

    Two years ago, three bunnies of ascending size showed up in my backyard. It was the evening before my wedding. They were dubbed "the wedding bunnies," and entertained myself, my new husband, and our guests throughout the summer and fall. The bunnies became a staple of neighborhood life that year.

    The next year, one bunny returned regularly, but not as often as it had the first year. Our neighbor's younger son loves the bunny, we were told; he wished it lived with them. It scampered between our yards, and probably others' as well, always eliciting a squeal of excitement when it emerged (yes, both from the neighbor's son and from us). We wondered where the other bunnies had gone, where it lived during the winter, and why we didn't see it more often. We would trade sightings with our neighbor, and were all disappointed that we hadn't provided the bunny haven we had apparently created the year before.

    Then came the snowy winter of 2012. I walked outside to a blanket of fresh snow one day, cringing at the possibility of finding rat tracks -- in previous years, that's what the new snow had shown us. But I was not greeted by the dragging tail and ambling feet that I expected. Instead, there were the bounding clusters of paws that I knew well -- squirrels -- and crisscrossing them, sets of snowshoes. I had found the bunny.

    In our everyday urban environment, it's tough with human senses, dominated by sight, to have any sense of what has passed along a path even moments before, let alone overnight. The nighttime world of our wild neighbors occurs essentially without our noticing, and often we pretend they're not there unless they're causing us trouble.

    But snow turns us all into trackers. It allows us to leave and to notice the marks that other creatures -- human, rodent, turkey -- leave as they go about our day, and to follow them, on the ground and in our imaginations. I never saw the bunny, but I knew it was there, nestled under my front porch, while I was nestled inside, waiting out the winter.
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