Walking in a Winter Wonderland…

It’s been snowing here in the Northeast. That’s a bit of an understatement right now, as we have huge piles of snow by the roads, are busily shoveling snow off the paths, and are buckling down for more to come. Yikes!

But I have been enjoying the snow in ways I haven’t in years, if ever. Perhaps because, without a car, I don’t have to drive in it. And I live where they shovel and plow the sidewalks for me. I am very lucky!

frozen river with hare tracks-2-10-14

The small river is frozen with a half moon of hare tracks in the snow.

I have just recently started going out for a walk every day. A dive into severe depression has meant that I have to add new coping skills to the ones I already have in place, and walking is one of the easiest things I can do that helps.

So on many days you will find me crunching through shin-high snow, leaving a small trench of trodden snow in my wake. It is exhilarating and fine aerobic exercise.

snowy tracks-1 2-07-2014

My snowy trail

I have been discovering wonderful things, and paying attention to the plants and the outdoors in whole new ways.

We have both hares and bunnies in our neck of the woods, and the tracks they leave differ from each other. Who knew?! They trail along through the top layer of snow, swerving here and there or making a sharp zig-zag turn, and mostly go from one area of covering trees and vines to another.

What I have really been seeing for the first time is the absolute beauty of the trees, vines, dried seedheads, and other plants in the snow and winter landscape. With all the snow, of course it looks like the quintessential winter postcard or Christmas card. But beyond that is the sublime glory of each plant, twig, or bare stalk outlined against the snow, or simply being itself within the fullness of the land.

I have been paying attention to the bare trees, which allow me to see details and learn about the trees which are hidden or invisible in a way when the leaves are out and all the other plants are flaunting their own foliage and colors.

bare black walnut tree in snow 2-2014

My friend, the black walnut tree.

For instance, on one walk I saw the pods, with tiny seeds still inside, of the black locust tree. I had just been reading about these in a wild foods forum I’m in, and lo-and-behold, suddenly there they were on the snow, and later in another walk, clinging to the bare branches of a tree! Then I looked at the tree itself and noticed the very deeply textured bark, so different from the other trees nearby. Except that several trees had that same texture of bark, and when I checked their branches, they had the little pods still attached. So I noticed a community of trees I have completely missed up until now.

black locust branch

Broken branch of black locust tree.

My walks are not silent. The birds are very vocal, and it is amusing to occasionally hear what sounds like a spring song in the midst of this wintery snow. No longer a harbinger of spring in our neck of the woods, there are flocks of robins in the trees and hopping on the snow, their bright breasts flashing in the sun. I can hear the cardinals before I see them. The sparrows and chickadees are everywhere and other birds come winging by or hop around on bare branches or in the yew bushes.

This winter with its seemingly endless snowfalls has been an unexpected gift. I am so grateful for its beauty and the presence of creatures and trees and the Spirit of our Mother Earth.