Up until this week only in the woods have I been able to escape the glare from a too brilliant sun reflecting on rolling hills of hardened snow. The driveway was a block of ice until a few days ago– one wrong move and a deadly fall was a real possibility. The crunch of frozen snow – freeze and thaw – will be a repeating pattern until the season shifts – meanwhile the work of punching through snow has broken the timelessness of winter – slow days with me sliding over smooth packed snow on snowshoes pondering tracks of rabbit and deer or having no thoughts at all. Winter Peace.
When I enter the forest the deer hooves strike dangerous holes in the snow, trampling down my daily route. Sometimes one of my legs falls through – Suddenly I am lopsided. It’s a battle to stay upright but I slog on with determination only to feel a blast of northwest wind biting my skin with sharp teeth, although happily the worst of the wind can’t reach me here. There is a dull roar overhead and I am grateful to live in the lowlands. The sub zero wind chill is a challenge. Two days ago a cold front blew through followed by gusting 71 mph winds that knocked out the power splitting telephone poles in two like matchsticks. My paths flooded the day before in 60 degree temperatures – then they were impossible to cross even with cleats. Everywhere else broken branches, trees split, here, on the ground, bunches of white pine needles, stray sticks – the forest has been under assault since December1st and shows it.
This morning with record breaking temperatures once again in the low 60’s rivers of water flow down the hill. I am living in another lake and have taken to the roads for walking. I am worried that the water levels are too low in the brook. It takes 12 inches of snow to make an inch of rain – so even with adequate snowfall this winter we now need rain – a lot of it. I want to feel appreciation for hearing the cardinal’s mating song for the first time as he joins the mourning doves and chickadee “fee bees” and, feel gratitude for the grouse who are suddenly exploding out of the brush, but instead I feel frustration. The warming trend brought on by climate change has created extremes that make this month even more of a challenge than it was ever before.
I feel grief and anger rising in equal measure. All the authoritarian bluster to keep the old story intact. Nature is dumb, a resource to be used, climate change is a hoax. I am so sick of the story that is destroying us all.
Grief and anger brought on by weather extremes is part of the problem but not all of it. Some of these feelings are about me personally. In March I feel stuck in liminal space. Pine Siskins and squirrels have sucked the birdfeeders dry so many times that I have brought most of the feeders in. My friends the cardinals are complaining – probably as frustrated as I am. The deer are after the cedar seedlings down by the brook, nosing them under the snow.
This morning, when I talked to my abutting neighbor and friend, we agreed that these aren’t survival foods as the foresters tell us but tasty morsels chosen by the deer for nutrients they don’t get from store bought grain. “The deer have their ways” says this wise man of the woods who claims he was born there, worked there, and will die there too. (I hope this is true for both of us). My friend also tells me that our other neighbor has at least a hundred deer over at his house feeding. Up until now this man has provided them with grain but has decided he won’t continue this practice next year. I am very relieved; I have too many deer that are living here! Besides, Lyme disease is increasing in severity and is a real threat to everyone. We end our conversation agreeing that both of us have had it! He’s sick of plowing roads and wants to get working on my house.
It doesn’t matter that neither of us would choose to live elsewhere – and unlike me he wasn’t stupid enough to try – I shake my head at the memory. It took me four years to remember I belong here – and I had to unravel a message from the Sand hill cranes that kept brrring over my head to get it. ‘Go Home’ they cried, year after year as tears ran down my face and my confusion mounted. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Home is here in this tangled woodland forest with its brooks and bogs but that doesn’t mean that I’m not sick of winter. I want more GREEN…
Coming indoors after our conversation I look out my windows towards the trees and brook as I do a thousand times a day – but this time I hear a voice. “We’re sick of it too,” the trees remarked. And suddenly I saw them or through them in a way I hadn’t before – bark peeling, trunks battered by winds, limbs broken under old ice, branches scraping tender skin. The trees had to speak up before I got it – inside mirrorsM outside – They’re tired too, just more accepting. We’re in this in this together. So damn obvious.
(I can hear the skeptic snickering, stating with authority that I’m projecting my feelings onto the trees, dismissing the sentience between nature and myself, insulting us both with Androcentric ignorance and arrogance. No doubt this character never heard of Scientists like Sheldrake, Simard, and Kroeger).
I grinned then and thanked the trees for reminding me that I got caught in my own soap opera forgetting we are all sharing the same story, a story in which I am only one participant,
We are all sick of winter, endless freeze thaws, and longing for the sap to rise once again along with the first purple crocus.
“Patience”… the trees are talking again.