Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all! I hope your celebrations have been peaceful and joyful. (And a very belated Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah, too, while we're at it...)
I've *just* come in from a tramp through the woods behind our house on snowshoes. They're not our woods (and they're not my snowshoes -- thanks honey!), but our neighbor doesn't mind a little foot traffic. The deer don't seem to mind much, either.
It's hard to make myself go outside this time of year, but it's so worth it when I do. Once I got past our compost bin and over the first little ridge and rill, the houses were out of sight and all was quiet. Except for my shlomp, shlomp, the only signs of life were the tracks of squirrels and deer.
Then I came to the larger brook, named after our neighbor's forefamily, and had to look and listen for a while. Mostly iced over, but not completely, the water bubbled and whistled around the edges. Under the silencing ice, I could still see sizeable bubbles shifting and flowing with the water. A photograph wouldn't capture the half of it.
It reminded me a bit of a winter paddle on the Concord River, probably two or three years ago now, since it had to be pre-kid. We tried to capture the delicate belling of the river against the encrusted shore, using our digital camera, but it didn't come through. Memory serves where consumer technology failed.
Past the brook, I hiked on, weaving in and out of deer tracks and over once-surveyed, long-abandoned stone walls. This forest was all cleared a couple of hundred years ago, plowed and planted and harvested. Now it's protected "open" space, dense underbrush in the summer (mosquito heaven) and only feeling open to the sun in winter. Light reflects everywhere and comes in at odd afternoon angles, so close to the solstice.
I diverged towards the swamp to backtrack a two-or-three day old print of some mammal, but it didn't get any clearer. It wasn't till I crossed the brook, heading homeward, that I noticed it again. The animal had followed the same trail as we've been using, till it went down to drink and then headed out across the ice. The prints were slightly clearer in the shade of the gully and I'd hazard an 80% guess that it was a fisher.
Now that we've packed the snow down with three or four tramplings, we'll make sure to pack up some thermoses and sandwiches and take J. out for a snow picnic, sometime in the next couple of days. It's a tradition of ours to spend part of New Year's Day outside (no matter the weather). May you and yours mark the turning of the year in good health and good company, and get outside! The woods need you.