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Snake trail.

Most desert critters are active at night, and their presence may only be known by prints and tracks. I think of ancient hunters for whom animal “signs”  may have begun a language of time: the past is visible – in tracks a human can “see” the animal moving; elapsed time can be calculated from the print itself. Knowledge of topography, water availability and animal habits can roll out a future line of activity like a red carpet.  This is visual language; concrete, historical and predictive. Gestures are its co-expression; silence is golden.

Subsistence hunting is not easy, nor is success a given. Rates of successful predation are slim, even for top predators. Anything a “puny human” could do to increase the odds would be important. Number one would be to observe, copy, adjust and utilize not only behaviors of prey, but the strategies of carnivores. I think this is a human advantage that is underappreciated and almost entirely overlooked: we not only copy skills and behavior from other humans, but learn how to use materials and solve problems by “clever” imitation. Not only animal behavior, but from geologic processes and raw materials in the landscape.

We too often attribute this observational knowledge to human “imagination” or inventive ability, and not to direct inspiration from the environment.

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Impression from fishing boot.

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The waddling trail of two low-slung ducks.

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Snake Track in Mud / Observing Time

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