He knows that life is precious. He knows this like he knows that water is wet and that stars are distant—he’s not sure how he knows, but he knows as he knows that life is not a given. But is also wonderful. Especially on nights like this. Is also hungry. Is also cold. Is also lonely. But magnificent. Is sometimes short, like his mother’s. Is sometimes long, like his father’s. Is sometimes always, like his own, tonight. Is sometimes vast and spectacular. Is sometimes wondering. The winter cat does not think of himself as Lynx—he carries a whole different set of silent labels. Nor does he think of himself as near extinct, what he senses is a distant lack of resonance. The sigh of fewer likenesses. The long sigh of the forest, tree whispering to tree to tree to tree about something he should hear but still—no matter how hard he listens or how silently he sits—remains beyond his hearing. The whispering trees are concerned. About him. Or his kind. This he knows. Or believes. Especially on a night like this. Perched in snow, gazing at sky. Above to his right the lights now shift a little and now they ripple in and out of colors he tries to name but cannot keep up with. Then there is a snap like a branch frozen and breaking from the weight of snow: a crack and then crackle and then new wind up there, rippling the vast sails of galaxy to galaxy travel. Winter came early. Seems to him it comes earlier and earlier each year. Not that he minds. He prefers the stiller, harder ground of frozen earth. Especially just before the longer snows. Then he moves about with ease on pine-covered paths over mosses brittle with anticipation of the dark season ahead. The air carries scents well and true and over long, windless distances. And hunting is good. Before the long snows. Then the long snows arrive—earlier this year than last, he believes. Stars are hidden most nights and hunting is no longer a joy but a need. Fewer scents and no tracks. Spoors quickly buried in white, then gray, then—as night settles again—in black flakes falling falling falling. Hunting is an urgent need now and for many days it is all he thinks of, all he does, to the constant chorus of hungers past and present. Then the long snows quiet and clouds chase clouds away and across the edge of distance to reveal again the stars and the wide span of galaxy. Hunting becomes again a joy for tracks remain tracks now, and he is not the only one hungry. But smaller hungers are made to feed larger hungers, this he knows, and he feels no unease about killing them and then, warming his tongue with their blood, eating them. These smaller hungers—rabbits, deer, squirrels, mice, birds of many kinds, foxes even—run at first, not such willing food. But he is quicker and surer of his purpose and he corners and looms and that is when they turn and face his bared fangs with a strange relief, offering throats for the greater good. That is what his father told him, and that is what he has seen for himself, and that is what he would tell his children would there ever be any. He is not so sure about children, the longer sighs from tree to tree fill him with doubt. Even on a night light this. Again the sky-colors ripple and another crackle turns starry wind and calls on his ears to heed. He shifts in the snow as if to adjust his view for the better.