“Listen! Let the high branches go on with their opera, it’s the song of the fields I wait for, when the sky turns orange and the wind arrives, waving his thousand arms.” — Mary Oliver, Wind
The woods were quiet save for the steady clump, swish, click of this clydesdale making his way through the fields and woods on snowshoes. The snow had transformed from powdery bliss Sunday to snowball clingy in the warm sun. In New England you work with whatever Mother Nature gives you, and a lunch walk on a warmish day brought isolation from humanity and companionship from thousands of naked old friends biding their time to bud in Spring.
Steadily I make my way through the forest to revisit favorite spots. I have memories of who I once was in certain places, for the trail whispers. Why do we settle on the familiar so often, when the world offers so much to discover? The trick when walking in familiar woods is to look for the different. The most obvious tell was the snow itself, tracks and consistency completely transformed in a few days, and it will be again on every visit.
Autumn leaves lay scattered near a dug-up clump of snow. Deer tracks? No… Canine. The tracks and leaves tell the rest of the story. I realize I’m telling my own story with every step. I wonder who might read it? The trees stand stoic and unmoved.
I climb up a small rise on virgin snow. Something catches my eye and I walk closer for a look. Someone built a lean-to between two oak trees, with netting and fallen tree branches making up the roof. This wasn’t new, just unnoticed on prior walks. They’d wanted it that way, of course, building it up away from the trail. I wondered at the builder for a moment, and left the mystery unsolved. The world is full of questions, I don’t feel compelled to answer every one of them.
Turning back, I recalled this line of poetry from Mary Oliver about tree branches waving in the breeze. We know this song, the woods and I. Looking around one last time I look for an excuse to linger. They stand in cold indifference and show me the way home.