Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Because it is spring

I am not going to write about snow again. I am not going to write about how it is May and the snow is still piled in the woods in the deep shadows where the spring sun doesn’t reach. I am not going to write about how the temperature dropped again last week after days of drying sunshine and how it froze the melting snow so it was in turns crunchy underfoot and then slick and slippery with a new coating of white on top, deceptive in its fluffiness.

I am not going to write about how the calamitous underbrush emerged on the forest floor, a puzzle of downed trees, entwining limbs, “oh yeah, this is what it looks like”, only to be quickly covered up again by a thin layer of white.

I am not going to write about how the snow sifted down through the trees just days ago as though it were a dark fall day in November when it should be exciting, magical even, to see the flakes again after months of green.

I am not going to write about the deer flashing past in the woods, the same colour as the bare trees, noticeable only because of the fresh white background, making hardly a sound just the faint crack of a twig. I am not going to write about the well defined hoofprints I followed a short way through the snow, wondering at all the spaces through which the deer could have darted and yet it chose the well-trodden path where my foot prints and Murdoch’s paw prints mingled with the cloven shapes, like a highway through the forest.

I am not going to write about those things because it is spring and today the snow is melting.

Now the woods have become a circuit of tiny rivers all babbling amongst the trees. The sounds of rushing water where the melt water converges in the deep ditches and flows beneath the road to the creek that rages this time of year through our neighbour’s forest fills the quiet.

Murdoch and I splash our way in to the woods, slop through swathes of snow that still sprawl across the forest floor, turning to shelves of ice before melting into streams.

We follow our old paths once carved in snow, completely gone now, completely altered from the smooth white landscape to raucous piles of wet wood, downed trees in various states of decomposition. We have to scramble over obstacles that we haven’t seen since the fall and we emerge on a wide trail of old bleached grasses between two stands of forest that is navigable only certain times of the year, at winter’s beginning and end, and sometimes in the thick of the coldest months when a trail has been maintained by foot or cut by snow mobile.

The wide path leads to a dry south-facing hillside, brown, brittle scrub grass crackles underfoot as we zigzag down the slope to a cool pocket of snow amidst a stand of trees. Beyond we emerge on to an endless meadow, bright yellow beneath the brilliant sun. Bleached grasses flattened and pointing all towards the east as though a great river rushed through here not long ago at the base of the mountain. We cannot see the earth beneath the grasses they are so thick, layers upon layers covering the ground so that each rustling step is soft and spongy, water lying somewhere deep below filters up in our footprints. Small pools dot the meadow.

Murdoch sees something I do not and dashes off at top speed, water flying from his heels. He smells something else and changes direction. He runs in ever-widening circles so he becomes a tiny black figure in this open space. We head towards the mountain, separately. I am not worried about him here, there is absolutely no one else around, so I can wander, get lost in thought, come back and scan the distance to find him also lost in thought, or smell.

We loop around another small stand of trees in the far corner of the meadow where more snow, loose and crystalline, still hangs on beneath the glare of the sun and the warm, sighing breezes. And then we head back across the bright expanse of flattened, springy grass and up the slope seared by the sun, to the wide path and finally the shade of the forest, damp and cool and refreshing.

It smells like snow on the breeze that winds through the trees. There are patches of ice, smooth and slick with rounded edges molded around rocks and moss and fallen trees and in spots, wet granular snow that is still up past my ankles, but I am not going to write about those things, because it is spring.

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