I once knew this guy who swore he’d eat roadkill. Not trying to impress, more of an affirmation of his commitment to living in the North, appreciating what nature provides, just being realistic really. It would have to be fresh – I guess I should really make that clear.
Winter driving in the North. Hazardous. Flocks of diminutive “suicide birds” are out playing chicken with cars. And losing. The interesting bit has to do with the food chain their demise supports. Good article on that – the sad case of gizzards and blizzards. I recall one long road trip two winters ago, a purplish feather-encrusted stain on the roof rack. Twenty below. There’s no swerving aside from these speedy zig-zagging flocks, not without putting yourself in the ditch.
It’s called road ecology and it’s fascinating and morbid stuff. Did you know for example that certain species of small herbivores – rabbits and the like – simply won’t cross double lane highways? Something about the span of asphalt being just too dodgy. The unintended result is that populations become less able to migrate, more vulnerable to predators, groups fragmented from one another, and over time, it is theorized, less genetically diverse. Landscape fragmentation… keep it mind. It’s a new science, road ecology, perhaps there’s a place for the hipneck pragmatism of my acquaintance from years ago?
Then there’s crossings. They have their own challenges. Overpasses, underpasses, Xing signs for myriad species (I say “zing”… you?) It’s the ones with distance estimates that confound me: Moose, next 20 km (‘big one’ I remark knowingly to imaginary passengers).
Of course, our winter roads do a yearly reality check on human sense of security. I don’t subscribe to that Canadian cliché of the winter driver, capable of speeding through blizzards with casual ease whilst twisting the lid off one’s double double. I mean, I enjoy the cliché but it’s bad advice to live by.
All in all, it’s enough to make one think twice about getting from A to B in the dark months. Still, there’s an eerie beauty to it, a reminder to stay humble, help one another out if need be. We’re in this together.
Memo to self: winter up, be grateful for each safe passage, more grateful still for each safe snowbank encounter. Stop often, step outside and listen to winter. Don’t trust the moose warnings, they could be anywhere. And maybe stay home instead.