After shoveling and taking care of the animals on Saturday morning, the first thing I thought of was how much I wanted to take a walk in the Orphaned Woods. I wanted to see how she’d changed since the snow fell. To look for animal tracks and take notice of which branches broke under the weight of the heavy snow, which standing stumps fell over.
But it’s hunting season, till December 15th, I was told by the couple who park their truck on the side of the dirt road where I walk with the dogs this time of year. They spend their afternoons in camouflage with rifles in the tree stand on the edge of the cornfield. “I hope you catch something,” I said to the woman, immediately realizing how ignorant I sounded. Even I know you catch fish, not deer.
My yearning for a walk in the woods was still strong today, so I decided to take a walk around the pasture instead.
I followed the thin trail made by the donkeys and sheep, the width of my boots, side by side, varying in color from snow beige to mud black. Fate stayed behind with the sheep and Zinnia ran ahead, jumping into the pond, and then quickly out.
The animal’s trail was easy to follow when I started out, the edges distinct where the animals had walked. But it became less precise the further I got away from the barn. Near the north most fence it disappeared altogether, becoming thousands of muddy footprints trampling the snow.
I walked under an Adler bent with snow, the tiny pinecones letting me know what kind of tree it was. One or two brown shriveled pears still clung on a high branch of the pear tree. From there I made a bee-line to the Winterberry. Though faded, still brighter than anything else in the pasture.
I could hear the hammers from our neighbors building their new house. I thought how if it was anyone but an Amish family building a house I would have been listening to the thwack and echo of a single nail gun instead of many hammers.
Then the thorny thistle, with its downy fluff caught my eye. The white feathery seeds still packed in the now dried sepal. It looked so soft, I had to touch it.
That’s when I saw the tiny spider silk clothesline strung with snowflakes. I still remember the first time I saw such a thing. It was about 20 years ago when I was walking in a friend’s woods. I didn’t have a way of taking a picture of it then, but I never forgot it.
At the time I thought I’d never see such a thing again. But now I know to look for them, I know they occur more often than I can even imagine.
As I was about to turn back to the barn, Fate showed up. She looked at me eagerly, only wanting to get back to the sheep. When we got to the pasture gate, Zinnia jumped into the pond. Back on dry land, her wet body brushed up against my boots as she ran after Fate who was by now “getting the sheep.”
December 15th and the end of hunting season is a little over two weeks away. The snow may be gone by then, but it’s almost certain that if it is, more will be on the way.