A tale from the winter woods

imagesThis morning I went for a walk on the Iron Horse Trail, a long disused railway track that has been converted to a walking trail and enthusiastically reclaimed by nature. It was a frigid but picture-perfect Christmas morning – silent and white.

In other seasons, the trail is lush with life, home to woodland creatures and birds, dripping with vines, bursting with underbrush, bright with flowers and a dappling canopy of leaves overhead. Today, beneath the white sky, the trail seemed stark and colourless.

But as I walked, I realized just how much was apparent precisely because all the beautiful distraction was gone. Like one of those Magic Eye images, a vibrant picture emerged before me.

I could see the tree trunks and branches, coated in sparkling ice and creaking and clattering in the wind. Squirrel, bird and wasp nests nestled in the branches. There was a maze of footprints and burrows beneath the underbrush.

Lazy snowflakes drifted down. A chickadee swooped past. Red berries, so bright in the white landscape they seemed to be lit from within, drooped on a bush. A raven called and rose above the black branches.

Especially during the holiday season, fraught with pressures to buy, decorate, eat, consume and glitter, how much do we miss because we’re filling our life with stuff? Are we comfortable stripping back our lives? Are we okay with what we might see and hear if we pared back the clutter?

I suspect that if we did, like the winter woods, what at first might feel empty and lifeless would reveal a vivid, hidden world.

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