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Hoary Marmot By Robert Bateman

By Robert Bateman

On a hike in Banff National Park quite a few years ago, my family and I found ourselves alone on a high saddle where the mountain dropped off sharply on either side. It was one of those moments when the world stands still and all your senses become heightened. The empty space between us and the next mountain seemed almost a solid presence, so vivid was my impression of the great gulf of air. Then I saw a hoary marmot poised atop a nearby pile of rocks. Despite its small size, it appeared to be lord and master of the high peaks that stretched off in all directions. Quietly I began moving toward it. The marmot remained motionless, allowing me to come so close I could almost touch its beautiful mantle of silvery-white fur. My attention was so focused that I was only half-conscious of a distant roaring sound - I dismissed it as a high-flying jet plane - growing gradually louder. What happened next took only a second or two, but it seemed to stretch out over a much longer span. The marmot gave its characteristic whistle and shot down its burrow. In the split second I cursed my bad luck, the roaring sound became so loud it seemed to come from inside my head. I looked up to see a golden eagle plunging across the sky so close to me that I felt the wind stirred by its dive. Then it wheeled away and soared off in search of other prey. - Robert Bateman

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