A Beauty in Winter's Burden

Grey Skies and Snow Covered Ice Cling to this Day

I wake this morning after yesterday’s freezing rain and snow. From my window I see a world encased in crystal. I gather my boots and hat, and with my dogs, step outside.

Walking through the muted colors of winter, I see the white pines encased in ice and snow; The burr and pin oaks clinging as misers to their autumnal splendor, now a brittle brown. The maples, proud with bare arms stretched high. These trees all bend and quietly creak under the burden of yesterday’s ice and snow.

As I trod across a thin layer of snow and ice, my two dogs have their noses to the ground. A flash of red as a cardinal flies from a curly willow branch to a mulberry tree. My dogs and I breath in the smell of life that even now bursts through.

The crab apple tree, with last autumn’s fruit, still holds promise for the winter creatures. And we search for evidence of opossum, once rehabilitated in our basement, now hopefully finding shelter here or elsewhere.

A burst of mottled brown scampers a few feet ahead. A rabbit, perhaps born this past spring, bolts from beneath a nearby douglas fir. It seeks first the curly willow then jukes towards the red bud, and finally amongst the thick sanctuary of a copse of white pines.

A pair of juncos seek some fortune amongst the meadow. Is it dandelion? Or thistle? Or goldenrod? Certainly not the milkweed I once gleefully spread. Two other birds, perhaps chickadees or nuthatches, jump and flutter amongst the branches of a troublesome autumn olive.

A few years ago, this land was a ghastly mono-culture field of short grass, tired and ailing in its recent conversion from a field farmed for corn and soy beans.

And before that? The thick clay tells of mossy oaks, poplars, maples, and perhaps even sycamores.

Years ago one might have heard the words of the Myaamia and Bodwéwadmimwen spoken here.

Today, outside I speak no words. This is a sacred morning, meant for silence. To listen. To acknowledge the strain and struggle of nature. To celebrate the juvenile trees now reaching 20 and 30 feet high.

I draw close to a young hickory once hidden amongst a troublesome maple. The hickory, with it’s branches spread wide, now stands proud in its resplendent morning sheen.

No breeze blows as the grey clouds blanket the sky, burying sunshine for another day. A crunch of leaf and grass as a dog frolics past. And the slightest groan of a tree as it shifts to bear the weight of ice and snow.

I start to head inside, and again see that red cardinal take flight. It leaves a tall and narrow wild cherry tree, with its bitter fruits still on its branches. I look back from where it came and see it’s brown mate hopping on a branch. I chuckle at the thought of their little conversation, “No dear you stay and finish your meal, I’ll lead this man away.”

Today, as this morning passes, the ice and snow remain. The sun, for all its warmth, has chosen to remain under its thick blanket of winter grey clouds.

And the wind, tired and spent, has chosen elsewhere to run free.

For the trees, this day is meant for stillness and caution. The burdens of yesterday have brought beauty and fragility.

For me, I drink in this morning walk. Tasting the momentary sweetness of a sublime moment, knowing its beauty shall fade and join the tapestry of my winter memories.