I spent the afternoon climbing the hills and walking the fields near home amid softly falling snow yesterday. I went out to clear my head from a very long week, to look for deer antler sheds, and because I felt the groggy headache of an impending cold coming on.
The fresh air does wonders. Like the alcohol laced tonic sold a century ago, it takes off the edge that is caused by living in a modern world. To be the only person on hundreds of acres of bluff and farmland has a quieting power upon the madness that exists in over stressed minds. Snow floats in the air like the ivory down of heaven’s eiders creating a blanket to hide the barren ground and casts a hush upon the earth, upon the soul.
Stands of goldenrod bend in the wind. Their stems holding orbs once pregnant with a single larvae laying dormant over winter only to chew its way from a woody womb and become something new entirely in spring. Gilded blades of grass bend beneath the weight of slowly falling snow. Snow that is nothing more than an icy mask to cover the ugliness of winter’s death. The earth is transformed into an alien landscape and the feet of lone creatures mar the surface like man’s first walk upon the moon.
One can never get lost following the tracks of nature’s greatest survivalists. Not man with his GPS and fire starters, but animals whose very bodies have the power to transform and adapt to every extreme in terrain and weather. Dens on sides of hills where bears slumber through the months, oblivious to the world outside their earthen cocoon. Leaves bunched in branches that provide shelter for squirrels who never seem to stop for rest. The very trees themselves, such as the oak, aid in the survival of others by clinging to their leaves far into the winter just in case some creature of the forest needs forage for its frost bit bed.
The hills offer views of the river below. Frozen and still, a misleading field of ice appears barren yet teams with unseen life just below the surface. Currents flow strongly beneath the crystal sheets and back water sloughs fill quickly with species of fish that provide feasts for those who will brave the bite in the cold. Along the main channel areas of water remain unfrozen and attract bald eagles in groups who stand sentinel on the icy edges in wait for a feast of their own.
The view from the cliffs is hypnotic, humbling, and for me a place where I choose to worship in a cathedral built by God not man. From heights that force me to see beyond what is in front of me, to gaze past the horizon and witness all that was created by a hand strong enough to carve stone yet gentle enough to love even the lowliest among us.
My trips to the forest and hills are more of a sabbatical than just a mere walk in nature. They are an escape from the din of a demanding world. They are what I need to get back to myself, to get back to who I am when I take off the mask of necessity and shrug off the cloak of responsibility. A time where I can silently enjoy the company of someone who understands me more than anyone; myself.