Thursday, February 11, 2010

A winter circus in the woods

When my husband Bill, who works in Northern Alberta, was home 10 days ago, we decided to go snowshoeing in the deep woods along the Superior Hiking Trail. When we started out, we had no idea we'd become slightly intoxicated by the beauty that awaited us. The woods were literally snow-bound: the firs and pines, protected in that forest, still bearing the white muffs they'd donned the prior week. Sun and shadow mingled to create a landscape that shimmered with wonder and the ice that filled my soul a week earlier melted into the landscape.

I felt like a child at a circus. Everywhere I looked, bent limbs of trees supported animals in parade. Pine martins, ravens, and red squirrels danced with elephants, hens and sea horses. These exquisitely delicate sculptures of snow and ice transfixed me. I kept stopping in amazement. Look! There! That mouse was definitely dancing. And over there. Wasn't that tiger stalking? That horse rearing?

"Are you doing okay?" Bill shouted back to me. As usual, he was far ahead and felt obliged to check on me periodically.
"Do you see all those animals?" I shouted back.
"What animals?"
"The ones on the trees. Snow shapes. They're everywhere." Bill shrugged and moved on. His wife was imagining things.
Occasionally, frozen gems cascaded from branches high above me. I told Bill to watch for them.
"I haven't seen any," he responded.
"Just look," I encouraged, and laughed when the globules fell after he'd passed.

We returned to the same trail the following day, hoping to repeat the journey. This time I brought my camera but though the temperature was the same, the cold was more severe. Both Bill and I had trouble with our fingers. Mine hurt so badly that I raced along trying to warm up, not daring to stop to take pictures. When after half an hour, the pain in my fingers had me near tears, we turned around and hastened, as fast as our clunky snowshoes could manage, to the car. On the way home I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps the wonders I'd seen the day before had rarefied to the point where they no longer looked like the circus parade that had so enchanted me. Perhaps I was meant to hold the miracles of that other day in my heart and mind, rather than imprison them in a static photo. After all, I don't have the skills to capture falling gemstones or lure an observer into my circus.
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