As I Walk in Winter
Sugar –coated, powdered sugar haze and the soft salmon colored light gives way to a mandarin orange horizon. The stillness is pervasive. Not a breath of wind is felt. The perfect winter scene spreads out before me as I move closer to the edge of the lake. A cluster of dark shapes like large frosted plums drift between the ice flows. Unmoving they are geese still resting after a long frigid night. Careful not to disturb their rest I walk along yet further.
The trees, which only a day before seemed so stark and empty, now appear to be encased in candy. From the largest trunk to the tiniest sprig all take on the illusion of feather softness. It is a scene out of a make-believe landscape so perfect and still. It feels as if walking into this land will carry me away to a new reality.
In the hush my footfalls crunch loudly virtually echoing through the air. This is a day for heavy boots with their warmth and sturdiness. The other reality here is that slipping and falling make ambulation treacherous. Staying to the side of the path avoids the icy patches which can take me by surprise. The ice causing such a soft appearance on the trees means an iron-hard crust underfoot. The shape of the path is just discernable ahead as I have arrived before the bladed truck and plow have made their rounds. In the deeper snow the going is slower as my feet drag through the soft layers but greater effort put into the walk reaps greater reward.
I take note of a tiny fall of ice and snow flakes. A small gray bird flits from tree to tree, sure-footed on its slippery perch. The chickadee is awake and must search more diligently to find food this day. Just ahead the distinctive tread of a rabbit can be seen. No fox is trailing this furry creature as its footprints are alone in the new fallen whiteness. There he is! He is silhouetted against a clump of weeds also seeking nourishment.
Continuing down the lane I note that the bird feeders are alive with visitors. The chickadee has found his breakfast and other feathered friends are winging their way to join him. Over my shoulder can now also be heard the honking geese as a newly arrived squadron wings set circle for their final approach. On the water heads pop out of wings to take in sight of the new immigrants. They call out their greeting and drift aside to make room as a dozen majestic geese gracefully touch down in the patch of open water.
The silence is further disturbed as house doors open, cars rev to life, people begin the labor of scraping their automobile windscreens. A bus roars past the solitude is broken. Yet I move on knowing that sweeter views are still ahead. This time the crossing is even more welcome. Beyond the concrete path today lays the country lane. There the plows stop and the drifts are left alone. After a new fall like today it will be idyllic.
The sun, now a yellow orb, appears to be just beyond the next copse of trees. Its rays yield no warmth as yet but they pierce even the early morning brume. Pulling down my scarf my own breath adds to the fog. If care is not taken it will cling to my spectacles and blur my vision. Then all I can do is wait for it to evaporate in the crisp desiccated winter air. The breath cloud drifts away, dissipates and is gone.
On the snow ahead are the tell tale tracks of a cross country skier. Someone has been here ahead of me. Of them, though, there is no other sign. They have moved along quickly and left me in their wake. The parallel lines create an interesting perspective as they disappear in the distance never quite meeting. Even as my eyes are drawn to the horizon I behold a wonderful sight. Not far ahead a majestic creature appears as if from nowhere. The bare-headed doe quietly and calmly steps out onto the path intending to cross. She is alone and seems unhurried. She bends her head down to nibble a bit of grass peeking out from the new fallen snow.
I am perfectly still and watch her enjoying her morning morsel. Yet, as quiet as I am she startles and her head quickly turns my way. Her large liquid brown eyes take me in and she trembles slightly. Her muscles tense as, no doubt, other encounters with my kind have not been pleasant. Though there is no threat she chooses to disappear through the haze and branches along the path. Her dignity still intact there is purpose but no urgency to her step.
The light has finally changed into the brightness of daylight brilliance. It is almost blue as sunlight blindingly reflects from the open snow-covered fields. More birds are out and about now as they try to make the most of the short winter day. Yet the path is still oddly quiet. The tell-tale tracks of a fox and later a raccoon join the path then diverge away. There is still no sign of the lone skier. The time has come now too for me to turn back.
A light breeze causes miniature blizzards of snow that swirl like white tornadoes. A new sound arrives at my ears. The breeze is playing a tune in the branches of the ice covered trees. What began as a whisper grows into a symphony of bright crackling noises. The cacophony of sound is accompanied by new visual effects. At first bits of snow drift to the ground. As the wind increases deafening noise is manifested by chunks of ice breaking loose from their lofty station. Now I must pass through this gauntlet of ice and snow and here and there small branches fall to earth.
No major limbs threaten my passage. It has become a game as I dodge and skip to avoid the larger nuggets dashing to the ground. Though there is not a cloud in the sky I appear to have come through major storm as I emerge otherwise unscathed. My return reveals that the once virgin snow has been swept away, the gray concrete drying in the bright morning light. Thus civilization once again bids me return.
The day passes as many do. No time to think or ponder. The pace does not slacken until a sudden pause occurs. I am given a gift of a few moments to sit and wait. At my desk I turn and see the setting sun gliding inexorably toward the west. Its fiery rays pierce the glassy coating of the high tree branches. From this lofty perspective there appears to be a forest aflame wherever the sunlight is magnified by the natural prisms. The wispy clouds ignite and swirl as smoke rising from the conflagration. Then a buzzing sound breaks my reverie. There is more work to be done.
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