Through the Winter Woods: The Walk

A dense fog rises off of the freshly fallen snow, and envelopes the house. Only shadows that stand still, while the mist moves ghostlike with the wind, is evidence of a world beyond.

I stepped outside of the house and started walking into the fog. Soon i was far enough that i could no longer see the house behind me, only the footsteps that led me through the snow. Mine and only mine.

The snow beneath my feet sounded like a stream of beads that i was wading through.  They scattered everywhere with each step, but when i leaned down to capture some, it was only solid ice  that met my hand. As i walked further I noticed i wasn’t walking through snow at all, but a thin veil of ice that covered the water beneath. I could see my boots sodden on the outside; the cold wet threatening to breach the heavy leather and freeze my unsuspecting toes.

It was silent as i approached the wood; Only the hum of an occasional car going by on the nearby road. On the pond i noticed cracks in the surface of the ice, the veins of the cracks from the middle of the pond spreading out to the edges, and from the edges towards the middle; reaching out like hands, trying to meet fingertips. But failing, eternally.

As i approached the forest i could see through the trees for some distance. It was all white. The snow had covered the forest floor in a blanket and the trees stood out defiantly against the weight of white.  I stood there with some apprehension about going in and i turned around to check if anyone else would be joining me. When I turned back once more to the trailhead, not sure if i would proceed, i heard something. It was the gentle tinkle of water- and it was calling to me.

I didn’t have to go far, the water from the pond was overflowing into a stream that led under a small bridge and further into the woods. I laughed at my own dramatic pauses. I came out with the intention of going for a walk, and there i was narrating myself into a story.

I was building myself into a story with a winding stream, woods, snow and quiet. Typically a story like this would go with some suspense, some horror, some fantasy. But i couldn’t keep the smile out of my narrators voice. Where was I going? And why was it so dangerous? (i thought, rolling my eyes at myself.) It was the middle of the  day, I was alone sure, but there was no danger around me. Only the danger of my overactive imagination.

I had walked down this trail before, just yesterday, and i was noticing how much I had missed. What was that Robert Frost Poem? “Two Roads diverged in the woods.. and I took the one less travelled by?” In this snow i could hardly tell which one was more travelled by.

I stood there, trying to figure it out.

“I want to see a deer,” I thought randomly.

“Some kind of life…”

I wondered if i should just turn around and go back. Standing there in the cross roads. I felt myself going over and over, looking down the three paths, lingering for longer on the one that had gotten me there. Both trails ahead of me were familiar to me; and the way i came even more familiar.

As i stood there i realized i had left the toasty comfort of the house for the unfamiliar, and yet found myself on walking trails i knew well. Luckily for me the woods are never the same two days in a row, and when the sun had set the evening before, the grass had been green. Like Dorothy’s house that was picked up and landed in Oz… So i found myself looking out on a brand new world this morning when i opened the curtains; snow does that to the world.

So i started walking, unconsciously drawn to the sparkling branches of a bare tree.

The branches and the berries are covered in ice, and they sparkle. The ice covered them like a protective skin and as the weather warms it melts and drips, creating the transparent gemlike beads i was walking through.

As i wandered through the the woods i thought about the year that has past, and the year that is to come. i realized in a moment of a clarity that, when i paused at the fork in the trail  looking forward at which path to take, and looking back at the familiar, was not dissimilar to my contemplation of time. 2015 loomed ahead of me like a familiar, and yet unknown trail in the woods.Isn’t this what you’re meant to do in the woods? Contemplate life? Especially in these woods, in which i know I am completely alone. Hoofprints of deer, or a small moose was the only indication of any company i might have.

From this moment the rest of my walk in the woods is an almost overtly symbolic exploration of the year to come ( which i didn’t realize until i started to write it down.)

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