Monday, 17 March 2014
A walk in the woods
Today I walk by myself.
The cold is glorious; the sun is bright. The woods beckon, and I am so happy to be on the trails for an hour of solitude that I want to shout and dance. The labyrinth is covered in a duvet of snow and I feel like a giant when I notice that the packed snow on the trail has lifted me up to the level of the aspen branches.
Cardinals whistle and chickadees swoop, sure signs of the new season ahead. The river has cracked open and sings a joyful song before it dives beneath the crusty ice. I run my hand over the rough bark of an elm, scrunch fragrant cedar between my fingers. Strange dogs stop to nuzzle me as red-cheeked owners nod or smile before they whistle their companions back to obedience.
The snow sparkles and dances, drifts down from tree branches in puffs and clouds that twirl lazily in the sunlight. My boots plunge steady and sure into ankle deep powder. I take the looping trail past the gnarled oak with the face of a praying mantis and head for the second bridge.
Just around the curve before the darkness of cedars swallows up the trail, I see a young couple. They have stopped to adjust their young son's scarf and hat. We exchange hellos and as I pass, I am hit by a wave of sadness. I meet the brown-haired mother's eyes for a moment and it's as though I've been pricked in the heart with something sharp and cold. I cover my surprise with a nod and keep walking.
I am not psychic; I'm not even all that intuitive. I don't know what has pierced my soul in that moment. Maybe nothing. Maybe imagination.
But maybe not.
As I pass out of earshot, I close my eyes for a second, mutter a quick prayer to the trees and the snow and the sun and the birds, asking for healing, for a lightening of the burden of hurt the family seems to carry like boulders on their backs. Because we all carry our own invisible stones of sadness; sometimes in our pockets where they weigh us down, or in our shoes where they punish us with each step, or inside our heads where they rattle around for only us to hear.
I think we can drop the stones one at a time on the paths we walk; I think the best way to relieve our burdens is get outside, and keep walking.