Our Planet

Late Winter Walks


Down the hill past the bridge over the river, I take my silent pause by the cemetery of forest trees drowning in a swamp from the overflow of the nearby lake. In summer, it is a beaver’s paradise, worn out branches plunging into the shallow stagnant waters. Now under the winter cover, all is listless, stilled to the motion of the melting snow. I am mesmerized by its naked desolation. The branches hang up towards the sky with smudges of snow lingering in the curves and nooks. It’s no one’s show; it is all just there like I am trying to be, just there, under the falling snow, falling softly. The lake is tucked away, sheltered by the trees, and the privileged domain of two very enchanting dwellings: the one I call the elves’ log cabin painted orange and fit for children’s play; the other an aesthete’s haven, spacious, tall, and handsome. I can visualize myself sitting on the veranda lake-side, my back turned to the rest of the world, facing the only spot on the earth I choose to be, under the reign of its infinite calm and gentle beauty.

There is no sign of occupants on this mid-day Monday; only a dog and a man has left tracks of the walk I now take up and around the small hill that will wind back to the river. It feels, under the lightness of the snow, that even the weight of the work routine and the grind cannot come close to here. What does it mean to feel connected? Do I need the bank machine, my paper coffee cup, and a watch; or do I need the heights of the evergreens and the sole tweeting of small birds overhead? A snowflake is tickling my nostril. I approach the wooden bridge, conscious of the thawing ground, the mud oozing up around my boots. The Spring is like a yearning; it’s so close but still seems so far from coming into fruition. The river and its boulders take on a slumberous allure under a linen cover, baring a few jaw-size cracks, its underbelly a perpetual flow. I trust it. I trust the river to do what it always does, to burst alive with the Spring in all its fervor and abundance, to toss its hibernal cover at the right time, to send the mountain snow and ice down into the valley as the temperatures rise. I trust it all in the seasons of time that, because they are faithful and because they are constant, so am I. And as I lean in to the contours of the seasons, I feel accompanied by all creatures, by all of life that issues up out of the earth, as we age in time together. It’s not possible to ever be alone.


My boots are gripping the fresh snow on a deserted road. I love the wide open roads during a storm, when people choose to stay home and wait till the snow plough comes past. I take virgin steps and turn back to see my own footsteps before they disappear. We go soft and quiet like the trees under their white coats during a snowfall. We move more slowly, careful not to fall or careful while driving on the road. We listen more intently when the pace slows, the sound of the plough, a car approaching, a dog barking, all background noise to what is normally filled with conversation, the radio, the one hundred thoughts in our head like some absurd film script. Are we not more accustomed to living on automatic pilot as we go through the day? The now-ness is making an impression upon me. I wonder if Eckhardt Tolle has used that term, a random thought passing through. I stop for a moment to take stock. A subtle wind is dusting the snow off the lapels of the giant evergreens. Whoosh. The fairies are sweeping the forest, snowdust blurring the interstices of the woods either side of me. I spot a woodpecker jamming on a tree trunk, and a fat waddled bird perched on a treetop, catching the view that I covet.