Field Notes: Winter 2021/2022
“Shall we go this way?” I ask Asha at an intersection and walk several yards along the trail to demonstrate my question. To my surprise and delight, she agrees.
Most of this snowy trail is not well packed by walkers, skiers, cyclists or snowmobilers, so I trudge through four inches of slushiness, pausing frequently to catch my breath, and envy Asha, who runs ahead, sniffing animal tracks.
Familiar landmarks along the way are obscured by snow and ice and the cars sound louder, making the highway seem closer than usual, so I stop to get my bearings, to confirm that I am where I think I am.
I look left, the direction I plan to walk, and see a dotted line of beech leaves nestled in tracks. “Look, Asha,” I call. “The wind and woods have left us breadcrumbs.”
But then, so when, and then
On mornings when the wind chill
and freezing rain
has left a sheet of ice
under the inch of fresh snow,
the hardest part is
getting out the door.
I grow warm walking up the hill.
And the snow sparkles.
And I see tracks friends made on their early morning walk.
And it isn’t as slippery as I expected.
And my footsteps make a crunching sound that makes me think of cornflakes.
I recognize Asha’s I-want-to-go-this-way stance,
I say “Sure,” knowing it will add a mile to our walk.
the hardest part
leaving wind and snowy ice behind
through that same door.
Red-bellied Woodpecker hangs upside down from a Common Lilac branch, pecking at the suet.
American Goldfinches in winter plumage eat peacefully at the tube feeder while Black-capped Chickadees swoop, land, grab a seed and fly off again.
Dark-eyed Juncos hop on the ground unperturbed by American Red Squirrel in their midst.
White-breasted Nuthatches walk headfirst down the squirrel-proof cylinder, poking their heads in to get a seed or two.
Carolina Wren pulls out a seed and tosses it, then another and another, and finally flies under the Pacific Yew shrub with a wren-worthy seed.
These birds bring me such joy.
I want to see them more clearly, both as embodied beauty and as neighbors. So now rather than readers, I wear bifocals at my desk while writing, and I am becoming better acquainted with these winter visitors.
My inner three-year-old meets ice
Given unseasonably warm temperatures melting snow into puddles followed by seasonably cold temperatures freezing the water, I knew there would be ice on the trails this morning. But I was imagining patches, not corridors of ice.
I pulled on the cleats I’d brought with me just in case and picked my way along the trail edges, slipping occasionally as I crossed back and forth when the other side looked easier to navigate. Until I came to a fork where I was surrounded by ice and the path sloped downhill. Surveying my options, I saw from Asha’s tracks that even she had slipped.
“Here goes, Asha” I said and sat my snow-pant-clad butt down on the ice and slid and scooched and laughed.
Tender hope, holy beauty
“I brought you a present,” Cora says when her father drops her off at our house. She rummages around in her backpack and with a big smile hands my beloved and me each something small and soft.
“A Pussy Willow bud!” we both exclaim.
“How did you know,” I want to ask, “that my heart needed this tender and holy reminder of beauty and hope in our broken world?”
You may also like:
Late Fall 2021 – I almost said; Letter to myself after reading Hafiz; First snow
Fall 2021 – Second annual Gentian Day; Sitting with Tea and Tang; Eyes-closed listening; Not alone: Companions in the woods; Learning a new language: Then and now
Summer 2021 – Stretching lessons; No stepping stones; A red-feathered lesson in priorities
Spring 2021 – A change within; How I spent the morning; Glide; The time it takes; A glimpse
Winter 2020/2021 – Circle in the snow; Snow: Beyond shoveling; Returning