Always in late February, I begin to think of spring.
When there’s an unusually warm day, I trick myself into believing that it won’t snow or get cold again. March is so close and with it the first day of spring, but someplace inside of me I know the truth.
It will continue to be cold and it will snow even in April.
But as much as I fantasize about spring, it’s in the winter when there’s snow on the ground that I have the most freedom in the Orphaned Woods.
Once the leaves start sprouting the understory fills in, brambles and thick bushes make passage into certain parts of the woods almost impossible. And even if I could get through them, these are the places where ticks seem to wait to attach themselves to any live host that brushes up against them.
The path that I know so well, vanishes in the deep snow. And new ones emerge because what’s underfoot is no longer an obstacle to where I can go.
I wind my way through trees like walking an obstacle course. I stand in the middle of one of the small frozen ponds that are sprinkled throughout the surrounding woods, seeing the other side of the trees that grow along the edges. I follow a deer trail through the swamp on the neighbor’s property where tall ferns grow and mosquitos swarm most of the year.
There are no bugs, flying in my eyes, buzzing around my head, and biting the backs of my arms in the winter.
The truth is, as much as I crave spring at the end of the winter, the winter woods welcome me like no other season. They entice me to explore. They present a woods so stark and bare, I can’t help but notice what I might easily overlook with all the dramatic changes that constantly occur during the other seasons.
The snow began melting yesterday. Today I walked in the woods without my snowshoes. I followed my tracks from the past week, the snow packed down so I didn’t sink in too deep.
I pause to look at the Cottonwood growing in the swampy area just off the path. Now that I know what Cottonwoods look like, I realized I’ve passed one on the way to the little waterfall for the years.
I’m looking forward to seeing the cottony blossoms the tree will shed in the spring.
But until then, when I begin to complain about the snow and cold in March I’m going to try to remember, that it’s just those things that help reveal the Orphaned Woods to me in a way that doesn’t happen any other time of year.