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Making Tracks

I promised myself a snowshoe walk in the woods for lunch, and dammit if I wasn’t going to honor that promise. There was more snow drifting down, quietly adding to the base layer in fluffy contentment. Day-old snow welcoming the new to the accumulation. We’re in the weather pattern now, folks. Snow-upon-snow: February in New Hampshire.

I’d walked these woods on Sunday, but felt a return was in order. Conservation land, with trails popular with dog walkers and tree whisperers. At lunchtime on a random Tuesday in winter you don’t expect a crowd but you expect somebody. In this case one car running, its driver staring down at a phone screen, oblivious to me strapping on snowshoes and beginning my walk.

The trail is compacted again, a day after six inches of snow and with more in the air, speaking to the popularity of the trail. I help compact it for twenty steps and then move off trail into deeper snow. This is what I came for after all: the highly addictive, calorie-burning bliss of clumping about in deep snow. I followed an old stone wall that spends its lifetime keeping the woods and fields apart, and wonder at the farmers who built it a few hundred years ago, and the generations that mended it until the woods finally wrested back control of the land. Now it’s my turn on the land, and I quietly honor those who came before me; their hard life on display.

I rejoin the trail and the pace picks up, crossing a bridge over a stream I see a stand of old pines and step off trail to walk amongst them. Just me and the snowshoes, walking an endless blanket of white that covers the features of the land. Fallen trees, dormant vines and brambles, rocks and frozen wetland all lay together under Mother’s white blanket. And one soul clumping about above like a kid at recess. For that is how I feel, being out like this on a snowy workday.

I think about the time. How long have I been out here? 45 minutes? An hour? Hard to say, really, and I don’t want to look at the watch or phone to find out. But I know it’s time to head back towards the car. Clumping along, I join a familiar path, newly blazed but strangely not compacted as much as other trails. I help with that task while walking under hemlock trees – old friends who I speak with now and then across the years. They’d like me to linger awhile, I smile and hint I’ll be back another day. And cross a stone wall and step out on another field of white.

The car isn’t all that far away now. I could be in it and back in my home office in minutes. But the snowshoes want to fly some more, and so do I. Not just yet, world. I step off the path and walk back into the deep snow, a wandering soul in a quiet, timeless field. I spot a tall stone wall on a rise across an unbroken plane, set my course, and fly.

A quick look back and then back on my way

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