I had eaten breakfast watching a Downy woodpecker eating suet as the snow fell outside the sun-room in our house in the Lower Village of New Gloucester. We had a rare day off from babysitting and other commitments. I had not been out for a walk with Mocha and Sadie, our two English Shepherds, for several days. It had been murky, wet and icy. I was eager to do my breakfast dishes and dress for an adventure with my girls. I donned my buffalo plaid wool coat and pants, topped with my red beret. I put the girl’s collars on, hooked them to their leashes and headed out the door. I was wearing “Ice Bugs”, my waterproof winter boots with built in cleats. I knew how icy the driveway was. I figured this would be a good choice of footwear for our adventure. Grabbing my muscle-wood walking staff, we passed by Cyra’s stall. We paid our respects. She seemed eager to join us. I had thought of a ride after chores but deemed it too icy for her still barefoot hooves. Winter spiked shoes are due to be put on the next week. I did not want to take the chance that she might slip and go down. This would have to be a canine human outing.
Down the Chandler Land Road we went. When we came to the intersection with the Interurban, we took a right. In the summer I call this stretch of the Interurban “The Green Tunnel”. Trees overhang the trail creating a true growing tunnel. Now this was “The White Tunnel”. All the trees were coated in snow. The air was full of falling snow. A slight breeze caused some branches to shed their snow in waves of white. There was no sound save the striking of my staff on the ground, and the tinkle of Mocha and Sadie”s collar tags. I had given Sadie and Mocha a USP (Unlimited Sniff Pass) so the going was slow. What was the rush? I had my four footed friends with me to share in the joy of being out in a snow storm. The cold air woke me up to the beauty all around us. Even the breeze in the trees seemed to be telling me that I was right where I was supposed to be.
I had to pay attention to my footing. Just last week this part of the trail had been flooded with a rivulet running down the middle. This had all frozen. It was covered in new snow. I knew ice lurked below. I am not a big fan of falling on frozen ground. Twice the ice tried to bring me down but my cleated boots saved the day. I began a meditation walk. I focused on the sound of my staff hitting the ground, counting up to ten then starting over again. I have found in the past that this helps me clear the chatter that all too often fills my brain. It also helps me really see where I am, to hear the breeze and the sound of Mocha and Sadie’s collars. We came to the snowmobile bridge, the brook running under it adding its voice to the winter forest. We went straight through the intersection with “The Milk Road”. We dropped down to Steven’s Brook. We stopped. We took in the view of the snow clad rocks in the stream.
I took the girls to the edge of the stream. I unhooked them. They vaulted over the icy rocks. They scampered up the steep bank on the other side. I did not scamper. For my seventy years I felt I kept up a respectable pace until I crested the top. My heart was working hard which was not a bad thing. Before us was the Lower Village Cemetery, pristine in new snow. Sadie and Mocha could now be off leash. No one but the dead were here with us. Strong gusts traveled across the open ground, picking lacy swirls of white as it passed. My face felt the wind’s bite. We headed to the one bench in the cemetery that has a back on it. It is my favorite rest spot. On our way to it Sadie ran in joyous circles, teasing Mocha with her faster speed. It brings me so much joy to witness their joy. It is one of my most potent “medicines”. It is an integral part of my maintaining good mental health.
When we got to the bench, I sat. I invited Mocha and Sadie to sit with me. The cold wind had picked up. I was grateful for the snuggling warmth of my two companions on either side of me. Together we watched the snow swirling across the ground in front of us. My wool clothing had kept me warm. With my girls near and our warm home not far away, my heart was full of gratitude at the life I lead. After a contemplative break, we struck out for home. We crossed the granite bridge over Steven’s Brook. We threaded our way through the gravestones. At the road I clipped the girls to their leashes. A couple of cars past us. We mostly had the winter landscape to ourselves. Cyra spotted us as we entered the driveway. She called out a greeting, hopeful for a snack from me. In these crazy historic times, it is good to get out in the world away from the deluge of bad news that threatens to overwhelm us and reconnect with the beauty and healing power of the natural world.