Jim Vickaryous

Perspective matters. Skiing out West with my family, a heavy snowfall ended a bluebird day. I stopped on the slope to get my bearings and wait for my family. In the mountain silence I could hear the snowflakes fall on the snowpack. In the solitude, I heard the scurrying of a small animal. At the tips of my skis, an ermine was looking up at me. It had a large vole in its mouth. Just as surprised as me with our chance mountain encounter, the ermine dropped the freshly killed vole, and scurried across the snowy slope to the shelter of an ancient ponderosa pine. Next to the ponderosa, the snow-white ermine stared at the lifeless vole in front of me. The ermine charged across the slope toward me, stood on its hind legs, looked straight into my eyes, and let out a fierce growl. It grabbed the vole in its mouth and ran back into the ponderosa forest with dinner for its family.

My perspective that wintery day was to have some mountain fun with my family. I was not worried about survival or from where dinner was coming. The ermine’s sole perspective was survival. Listening to its high-pitched growl, I could tell it was enraged that I had momentarily taken its prey. We both went on with our day. Me to a warm fire and a stiff drink, the ermine to its warren to feast on the vole. I surmise it was a win-win for both of us. Our paths had crossed with extremely different perspectives, and somehow, we both figured out how to peacefully get on with our plans.

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