Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Murdoch and I clamber over downed trees covered in snow. I leap from skinny trunk to skinny trunk trying to save energy by not having to lift my knees way up past my waist and hoist my heavy, clunky winter boots over each barrier in my path. Sometimes I slip, or misjudge the shapes molded by the snow and sink in up to my knees.
The trail we take is not defined; the one we followed ran out at the far edge of our neighbours’ property. It is just a forest now, though not endless. To the left is a crowded sea of spindly new growth, pale gray stick figures that stand about twice my height. Somewhere to the right, down a gentle slope through the established trees that soar above like a cathedral, is our dead-end road.
Eventually, like all forests around here, the trees end in a straight line that is not natural and Murdoch and I tumble out onto an old trail wide enough to have once been a road. We turn left in the direction of the mountains, though we can’t see them for the other forest that marches in a straight line along the opposite side of the trail. Of course it is all the same forest, with a great gash cutting it in two.
The trail leads to a small meadow ringed by trees, sheltered by the forest. The land dips away from where we stand and above the tops of the trees on the far side of the clearing, the mountain looms up like a wall in the near distance.
I walk down the slope through knee-deep snow while Murdoch snuffles his way around the clearing on the trails of deer and rabbits. At the bottom of the incline I look up at the cotton blue sky and then behind me at the untouched, pillowy snow. It is one of those days when I feel as though I could have stayed in bed and as Murdoch stops nearby to wrap his jaws around a half-rotted tree stump about as thick as my forearm, I pull my hood up over my toque and fall backwards onto the inclining slope.
It is like falling into a cloud. The snow catches me, I can feel the coolness through my layers, but I could be convinced I am floating on nothingness. I close my eyes and my entire body sighs and relaxes further into the snow. I am weightless. A gentle breeze drifts across my face while wind roars in the trees on the mountain. It sounds like waves crashing on a shore and I could believe this is the middle of summer. Except I could never do this in the summer, lie amongst the tall waving grasses that are now bent and frozen beneath the snow, there are ticks in the summer.
I smile at this perfect, tick-free moment and listen to Murdoch snorting nearby over the tree stump. I could lie here forever, I think, floating away on this cushion of air. And then I feel a gentle knock, knock on the soul of my boot. I open one eye and peer down to see Murdoch nonchalantly twirling his new throwing stick in his mouth. I close my eye again and just know it is only a matter of time before I get a facefull of snow. But instead I feel a light weight settle on my stomach and look to see the stick lying there and Murdoch standing politely nearby, just waiting.