The first step in reading the earth as one would read a book is to learn a vocabulary. The second step is to be willing to be surprised. What you observe does not lie. Here’s a bone dry coyote path on a sagebrush hillside that saw a light rain shower an hour before. Amazing! This is a mystery well worth contemplating, and worthy of contemplation for a long time.
Notice as well how the deer track lower down, just above the bright green choke cherries and mock orange, has been highlighted as well, plus two other deer tracks crossing the main trail. This degree of track density, and the variation between the two types of track writing, displays just how different these species are. Notice as well their differing approaches to verticality: the coyotes go down fast; the deer go down (and up) as little as possible, but are excellent at following contours. If you want to go up a hill quickly, follow the coyotes. If you want to get up without working up a sweat, follow the deer. If you’re going to write about the earth, first read it. Trust your eyes. That’s what they’re meant to do.