December 31, 2019

This is not so bad.

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.



Marlborough, the town where we live, is good about plowing the rail-trail. Our usual trek also goes for about a mile into the next town, Hudson, which does not plow the path. The temperature has warmed up a little and the two feet of snow has shrunk to about six inches or so, something that should be quite manageable, and I decide we should go down the trail until we’ve been gone for about an hour, see how far we get, then return.

I’m all prepped in gaiters, gloves and parka and Waldo is raring to go. I’m looking forward to experiencing nature covered in white stuff and watch Waldo with a jealous eye as he charges along, leaping, burrowing and rolling in it. The air is still, the temperature cold without being freezing and the sky overcast. The hood on my parka falls down on my face which makes it difficult to look up. The path, although plowed, is still quite slippery and I have to watch where I put my feet. The result is that I spend most of my time looking at the microcosm at my feet and I take only fitful glances at the beauty around me. But at least I’m surrounded by nature’s purity, sullied by man’s presence, but not obscured by it. I think the local fauna are all hiding away in burrows somewhere, wondering why this human fool is out and about in this weather, because I see no evidence of their presence, but I know they’re there.

My frequent glimpses into the shrubbery shows a lot of vertical branches poking their way skyward. Some are clean, thin and straight, some are thick with gnarly boles that collect clumps of snow and ice and have branches that are covered in a white blanket. You can see much farther into the undergrowth when the leaves are gone — the coniferous trees and bushes are few and far between and don’t conceal much. I am able to get a better sense than I ever have before about how much nearly pristine wilderness surrounds this trail. Right in the middle of a city. What a truly beautiful gift.

I glance at Waldo. Somehow, somewhere, he’s found a stick that isn’t solidly rooted to the Earth. Almost a log, actually. He prances proudly along, carrying the thing, one end dragging on the ground, as if it’s the greatest treasure he’s ever found. His head is atilt a little from the weight and it’s clear he hasn’t yet learned enough about physics to know that the thing would be easier to carry if he were to hold it more in the middle than on one end. But I shouldn’t criticize. It’s his project, not mine. It’s not long before he drops the thing, it disappears into the whiteness and he’s on to his next adventure. He pokes his nose deep into a hole in some rocks on the side of the path and I pull his head out with the leash. Who knows who lives in there and the last thing I want is for him to get bitten. He pauses a moment, then continues on down the path, looking for the next thing to grab his attention. I take his cue, slow down even more and look around me. Wiping my mind of thought and stilling my flow of consciousness, I reach out with my awareness and soak in the moment as well as I can. I listen to the stillness, feel the cold dampness, smell the clean air and gaze without focus into my surroundings. I don’t judge, but just dwell where and when I am. Sigh.

We only make a mile and a half down the rail-trail and an hour has gone by. Time to turn around and head home. Waldo seems ready and follows my lead without hesitation or complaint. I watch him closely for signs that he’s getting tired of being out in the cold wetness. I look to make sure he’s not shivering, slowing down or lifting his paws like they are hurting him. He shows no sign of being bothered by the weather or the exercise.

Still, I know we will both be ready to eat, then curl up and chillax in warm toastiness once we get home.

Look! A stick!

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