Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The woods were lovely, dark and deep....'til we arrived

“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,” I said to myself as I looked out the bedroom window across the berm and into the trails of the state park while getting ready for work this morning.

Except that unlike Robert Frost’s woods on a snowy evening, the woods weren’t dark, because it was only 10 a.m. Just lovely and deep.

And the only promise I had to keep at the moment was the one to be at the office in another three hours, since I was working a half-day.

The woods are lovely and deep, I said to myself, retrofitting the poem to my own circumstances, and the promise I have to keep is the one that I would try to be more direct in pursuing the things I want, rather than expecting them to fall into my lap. It was the closest thing I had to a New Year’s resolution for 2014, and two days before the first of the New Year, it hung over my head as I looked out at the bare trees and snowy ground cover.

It’s a perfect day for a walk in the woods, I told myself, contradicting the sentiment of the Frost poem that had come to me so easily. Because we’ve gone more than a week without fresh snow, the trails in the state park are temporarily closed to skiers, which means walkers and even dogs are welcome there. The temperature was a comfortable mid-30s, with predictions of colder weather to come, along with more snow, which would mean the trails would be restricted to skiers once again.

If ever there was a winter morning for walking in the snowy woods, I told myself, this is it.

But it wasn’t just me. I wanted the kids to come along also. And they are not generally winter hiking enthusiasts.

I pitched it to them the same way I had ultimately pitched it to myself. Limited opportunities for using the trails in the winter. Nothing else on the schedule. Not too cold.

And then I pleaded a little bit. “I really really really want to do this,” I told them. “It would be a big favor to me.”

But it turned out I might not have had to work quite that hard, because they shrugged and said once they were done with breakfast, they’d go.

Just as I’d imagined from the bedroom window, it was a beautiful day to be in the woods. The snow was packed and crunchy underfoot, the air crisp but not too cold.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t quite the walk I imagined. Not the walk I would have taken by myself, anyway. I imagined trekking quietly through the snow, immersing ourselves in the beauty of winter, but that’s not how my kids roll. Or rather, that’s not how my kids hike. There were piggy backs and horseplay; deliberate slipping and sliding and innocuous collisions. There were shouts of “Oh no, wolves!” delivered in falsettos of mock horror. There was much hilarity over the challenge of fastening the dog’s new winter coat around her torso and not letting her shake it off.

Their style of hiking is different from mine. Ideally I probably would have had it both ways: their company, but also the meditative silence and observance of nature with which I like to tromp through the woods.

Instead, I got their company, the walk I wanted, and a good deal of shrieking, shoving, laughing and chasing.

Which was fine also. To any other abutters of the state park, looking out their own bedroom windows and contemplating a winter walk, the woods may have seemed a little less lovely, dark and deep with the three of us plus the dog flailing and cavorting our way through.

But it was a good walk nonetheless. Because the woods really are lovely, dark and deep. And I felt very lucky to be making my way through them, along with two kids and a dog, this morning.

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