Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Winter Woods

When I first started this blog, one of my first posts was a list of 10 things I hated about summer. Winter, you will not be surprised to hear, is my favorite season. I began writing a top 10 list of my favorite things about winter, but soon discovered that cute phrases couldn’t express the breadth of why I enjoy it so much.

Last night, as I was falling asleep and looking out the large window that’s next to my bed, I thought about one of those reasons.

The snow cover brightened the woods so that I could see through the trees all the way over to the new pond, a distance of about an eighth of a mile. I could see the stars, saw the Big Dipper and tracked the path of a few clouds as they moved across the sky. I could see which trees still had a few dried leaves attached to thin twigs. I saw that the tree which seems to me to have a “face” on its trunk created by the pattern of scars from long-lost lower branches had grown a bit since last year.

One of my favorite things about winter is that I can walk through the woods after dark without a flashlight or headlamp and still find my way. Only a month ago, when many leaves still clung to the oaks, beeches and hickories around the cabin, the leaves blocked the starlight. Under that leafy canopy the woods were completely dark, and if I didn’t walk with a headlamp, I could barely walk at all.

When I walk in the woods at night, I don’t like a headlamp to announce my presence. While the headlamp brightens whatever is within its beam, anything beyond it is even more obscured. The lamp makes its possible to walk without tripping over my feet, but I can’t see much else. I can’t see into the woods or see over to the pond. I can’t see the deer that come to the pond to drink. When I’m in the woods at night, I prefer to surround myself with its cloak of darkness, slipping between the trees like silk and showing no sign of my passing.

In winter, leaves are just a rumor of the past, a rumor of the future. When the trees are bare, the sky is open to me, the stars visible and clear, with just enough light to see by. When snow is on the ground, as it was last night, its whiteness makes the nighttime woods even brighter, so whether I’m walking in the woods or gazing into them from my bed, I can see beyond the small circle of a headlamp. I can see into the night-dimmed woods. I can see.

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