Archive for February, 2013

Feb 21 2013

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snowy treesIt’s amazing how a good walk alone in the woods can clean out the corners of one’s mind, cluttered as they might be with the petty frustrations of daily life. I hadn’t expected as much. I knew only that I had to jump off the merry-go-round for a while.

After driving an hour into the mountains, I left my car at the bottom of an unimproved road then followed a set of truck tracks back to a favorite jump off point. I stepped into the trackless snow beyond a closed gate, following an overgrown logging trail down to the iced-over brook.

A lone chickadee welcomed me. My dog Matika ran ahead, sniffing out wild animal sign. I tamped down four inches of heavy wet snow with each step I took, glad to have left my snowshoes behind. They weren’t made for these conditions.

The brook gurgled beneath the ice. That and the sound of trees creaking in an occasional gust of wind was all that broke the silence. Snow clung to tree branches, whitening the world all around me. I prefer being immersed in a green forest, but a white one will do in a pinch. The stark beauty of it worked its magic on my frayed nerves.

I stopped after bushwhacking for a mile and a half and turned my foam pad into a makeshift seat. Then I sat down. A strong gust of wind shook snow from the trees, chilling me to the bone. That cut my lunch break short. No matter. I sat there long enough to reboot.

The afternoon walk that followed was effortless – one slow step at a time. Not so much hiking as simply meandering through the woods, marveling at the silence and stillness of nature in winter.

Eventually I tagged the unimproved road and hiked out. But I was not the same man who had entered the woods a few hours earlier. I had reverted to my old, wild self and was happy for it. Too bad this frame of mind can’t be bottled.


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Feb 17 2013

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Sun and Ice

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lake iceToo tired to drive into the mountains, I went down to the lake yesterday just to get out of the house. I was surprised to find Lake Champlain iced over as far as the eye could see. One would think that recent thaws would have opened it up a bit. But the fist of winter remains clenched.

The sun was out, anyhow. That gave me hope. Lord knows I need spring to get here. I need a few days in the woods – the deeper the better – to unthaw my cold, hard heart.

I am hardened by the daily irritations of modern living: media hype, traffic, tax forms, economic woes, and all that idiocy in Washington. Doing too much literary work while holding down a job doesn’t help. Neither does the helpless feeling I get while watching loved ones suffer a broken health care system. I’m chronically tired, cranky and demoralized. Don’t know how my wife puts up with me. No doubt she would send me to the woods for a week if she could.

All the same a warm, February sun reflects brightly off the ice, reminding me that the coldest, darkest days are in the rear view mirror now. The first hints of spring can’t be that far away. Just have to hang in there a little longer. I’ll be tramping through mud and snowmelt soon enough.


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Feb 06 2013

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Winter Walk

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You know you have a touch of cabin fever when you need to get outside no matter what the weather is doing. That is why I donned my thermals and wools even as a snowstorm was brewing. But it turned out to be a passing squall. By the time I reached the Rail Trail, the snowfall had diminished to a few scattered flakes and the sky was breaking open.

With each step I kicked up a couple inches of the fluffy white stuff. My dog Matika ran ahead, stopped to sniff until I caught up with her then took off again.  She was as happy as I was to be outdoors.

A lone chickadee called from the woods, reminding me of other walks deeper into the wild, and the great calm that comes over me whenever I’m back in my element. Even on the relatively tame Rail Trail only a few miles from home, I could feel it. Funny how it always comes as something of a surprise. Amazing how little it takes these days to trigger the feeling. Apparently I’m predisposed to it now.

A mile or so down the trail, I stopped to groove on the snowy woods all around me, letting my hungry eyes feast on the February sun as it cleared a remnant patch of clouds high overhead. The small stream nearby was frozen over. Animal tracks were few and far between. No matter. Even as she sleeps, Mother Nature is beautiful.

When I turned around and headed back towards the car, a wicked wind blew out of the west slapping me across the face. Just a reminder that we’re still in the thick of it, I suppose. Fine by me. Let the wind blow, bringing with it whatever travails it can brew up. I’m not so easily daunted these days. Like a gnarled old oak, I’ve learned how to weather the seasons. Growing older has that advantage, anyhow.


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