The scent of an early cold morning in stillness is something like a combination of wood chips and ice, peppermint-crisp and dirt, and that’s what I inhaled when I started to walk the trails of Heritage Park.
The kids were at school, and my little one was home feeling under the weather – or at least, overtired from two weeks of staycation and the first few days back to intense routine. We always live in intensity, even if we don’t mean to, and it undoubtedly catches up with us.
And so on an early morning of a 30-degree day, we set out to find some stillness and inspiration in the woods.
On the first path descending into the woods, a carpet of snow covered the wood chips, the only layer of white we had seen yet this winter anywhere around us. Odd, for Michigan, but the weather is odd these days and we are simply its recipients. And so I noticed that pure white blanket as if I’d never seen snow, grateful for its gift, precious under my feet.
That is the beauty of an ordinary life.
To wonder at snow! To marvel at what happens every year in circular fashion, and recognize its unusual uniqueness on a cold morning.
Our sky was pinked with sunrise beyond the trees. At a certain point, the sun shone a brilliant golden disc of darting rays through the canopy. Beautiful enough to comment on it, beautiful enough to wonder.
Shaya found a stick that he called his hatchet, hitting at ice formations until he broke up the sheer layer of freeze and watched it float away down the part of the river that remained uncovered.
We noticed the intricate formations of ice and snow webbed into an artistic pattern, the beauty of nature.
The natural world gives us so much. We run around busy in our built lives, rushing to here and to there, checking things off lists, when the wonder of living exists all around us, in spite of us, and we often pass it by.
This park in the middle of suburban life is open for my noticing every single day of the year. Do I make it a priority? Not usually.
But when I do, when I step outside of my frazzled life and into the stillness of nature with its musicality of creatures and beings and creations, I am calmed, I am blessed, I am at peace.
In the winter, we think we have lost something. We wait and yearn for the thaw, to return to the blossoming.
But when we dare to step into its midst, winter embraces us. It gives us gifts of wonder and beauty, words I keep using because they are the best words to describe what is right here, right now, what we fail to see amidst our complaining and our resistance.
We rounded over the crest of the path and standing not many yards from us were a family of deer. Smooth brown fur, small triangular ears perked for listening, heads nuzzling at the frozen grass. We stood together, mother and son, in silence and in awe, and they stood together, mother and babies, in the normal course of their lives, doing what they do, us doing what we do, in the normal course of ours.
It was as if we wrote a script for the morning and it unfolded exactly as the story should be told. Except we didn’t write a word.
In winter, we think it is bare and ugly, the leaves gone from the trees, the trees spearing the sky. Everything is brown or white, we see only neutrals and darkness. The sun peeks its head out only for a few hours each day.
And yet, with the trees devoid of leaves, we can see more. Our sight line extends, our vision is clearer, we take in so many of the details of the forest that we miss in summer.
And there is no shortage of color. When we stop and notice, when we peer intensely at the details all around us, we see the sky in lush shades of orange and yellow and gold and pink and the bluest eyes. We see a ground littered with hues and textures.
When we listen, we hear activity and life, secretly, under cover of cold, happening all around us.
We did nothing to organize or coordinate or force the day to happen in a certain way and that is the very best kind of day that you can have.
We took what was given to us, we noticed the beauty all around us, and we were grateful. Simplicity in its finest form, truth at the edge of our tongues.