6:29 a.m. 30 degrees, wind WSW 2 mph. Sky: high in the west, a sad-faced three-quarter moon presides over an empty vault; last night's ambassador . . . so polished, so pensive. Even the clouds are still in bed. Permanent streams: untracked snow on banks; water swirls around white rocks. Wetlands: five sober crows high in a vacant sky, three fly west, two north; not a *caw* between them. Pond: parchment of ice across most of the surface; mink ballad, a line of paired prints that end with the author standing on hind legs; curiously watches me watch him—a big, poker-faced male, cream white chin, everything else profoundly dark against a backdrop of ice and snow—a supple, wild mammal on an otherwise bleak, post-election morning. Sexual dimorphism: variance of size between the sexes the hallmark of raptors and *mustelids* (weasel family) . . . but in reverse, a mirror image. Female owls and hawks, the frontline of nest defense, dwarf males are the dutiful provisioners. A male mink dwarfs a female, mates like a WWW deathmatch. Chases his partner, pins her by the scruff of the neck, abuses her like a tempest, vigorously and expeditiously. A breeding system honed over millions of years that has yielded fascinating dividends: weasels, minks, fisher, martens, wolverines, ferrets. Otters, however, are more dignified, more social, raise their pups together—a two-parent family. Once, I watched a mink mate. Nothing pretty about it. An unrequited romance, a tactless encounter. The word *rape* comes to mind . . . but, nevertheless, the odd and gruesome ritual yields results. Had my mother only known the *true *nature of the beast whose fur kept her warm and chic? Four precious chickadees spread joy, cast a ray of hope across my unmanageable anticipation.