January 21: Most are the size of the first joint of my thumb. On this snowy morning their hardened foam fissures catch enough of the burnished light to stand out to the eye. The egg case of a praying mantis opens in mid to late spring, and for about two hours hundreds of tiny, fully formed mantids descend in a living chain below the nest. They dry out quickly and then disperse into grasses, flowers, and weeds and begin their short life of waiting, snatching and eating. In January cold, they are one part of that most ancient bargain that warmth will come again.
Owning a contrary heart, I love this kind of gray morning – probably because the snow has begun and the sky holds every tree in silhouette as if they had been cut out of black lace and set on a silvery scrim. The dogs love the cold, and their fur carries crystals on their backs and heads. They run. I can see their distinct black and white from far away. When I whistle and call “Hupp, Hupp”, they come tearing, their coats flattened against them, apparitions in the snow.
We skirt the edges of the field. I have counted 16 egg cases so far. Then a big doe, a survivor of a long hunting season, skitters and leaps into deeper brush. Birds, juncos mostly, flitter ahead of our path. The snow cheers all three of us. The whole field seems to be swirling, moving, dashing forward somehow. I pity the dead. I think they would give everything, everything, to walk in this field for a few minutes, the snow hissing against their faces.