We started out with a calm day on the West Mesa, finding beautifully preserved tracks on the sand dunes. Eight people took this rigorously designed course of wildlife track and sign identification, in which everyone makes their best effort at identifying the “questions” presented by the animals we find: “who made this track?”, “which foot is this?”, “what gait is this animal in, walk, trot, run?”. Then, after each person has the time to write their answers and give them privately, the space is then created to receive all the information Casey has to give on who this animal is, and why it is not another animal, details on foot structure, natural history, and the mechanics and physical dynamics of gait and speed. So much information comes pouring out from just these little marks in the sand that you wonder at the richness of the story at your feet, and your eyes open wider.
If all this information can be gathered from just a few minutes on the sand, what could we learn from a day, a week, a month of reading these stories? A fascinating world is opening up for those of us who are learning to read track and sign, for it is not like reading, but more like seeing live action ~ the size, height, length and movement of the animal as it stops, sits, turns, breaks into a trot, starts to hunt or forage, or gives chase.
Our second day was cooler, windier, up in the Tijeras area where Mule Deer and Bobcat tracks, beds and scrapes were found. These common animals and the traces of their lives help connect us to the real world, the world where we live, where animals live; and help us to begin to see how we are a part of their daily lives.