Footprints in the Snow

footprints1 In the late eighties/early nineties when I taught middle school science, I presented my students with an activity that challenged them to propose scenarios with only animal footprints as clues. The clues revealed themselves slowly with three different but related sets of prints all from the same location. When I started working with teachers through workshops, I used that same exercise to talk about perspective, how content knowledge affects how we view the world. After initiating the RET program at the Magnet Lab, I used that same exercise in afternoon sessions, then Jose continued the tradition putting his own spin on it. I say all this by way of explanation that I should be able to look at a series of footprints and figure out what went on. But… that just isn’t so. I am trying to unravel the mystery of the footprints that I’ll share here.

footprints2 These first two photos show what I found on Sunday morning after a significant snowfall on Saturday night. I opened the downstairs door to let Sydney out at about 7:00 AM and noticed these footprints that seemingly came from nowhere and went nowhere. (The human footprints are mine!) Fairly certain that no critters had entered the house, I was puzzled, looked up the driveway and up the side of the hill next to the house but saw no other footprints. Then, upon closer inspection, it looked like there were two animals. footprints2 If you look very closely you can see footprints coming from the driveway under the gate so it would appear there were two animals that converged at the outside of the house. Looking for warmth? Shelter? Following a path that was so ingrained that the animal keeps trying it even though there’s been a house here for 50 years? Was it disturbed en route and ran off? I have no idea what kind of animal although I’m fairly convinced that there are chipmunks that take shelter in the woodpile (or mice?). Here’s the last photo I took and I look to anyone out there to come up with your own theory. It would be somewhat comforting to latch onto an explanation that doesn’t end with some small creature living in my home! footprints3

I could say that I included my own footprint to provide perspective on the size of the prints, but that wouldn’t be truthful. Later on that day, I went up to the top of the stairs to check on my car and dig it out. In so doing, I noticed that there were similar footprints going up the stairs! None on either side of the stairs, just walking up (maybe down, I’m not sure!). The story ends there. I have no idea what it is or whether there was only one animal. Want to hazard a guess? You can email me or respond on Facebook but I’d love to hear your theories. I promise it’s not an academic exercise. Anyone who knows me well knows I am a city girl, certainly not cut out for country living, so when I say I have no idea it is genuine!! Good luck solving the mystery.