There are days of warming temperatures, softening snow, melting winter and then the air is filled with more white flakes, tiny and sparkling in the light and then fat and soft falling in slow hypnotic veils. Heavy gray skies, slow warmth, and then clear blue days of biting cold and snapping wind.
The sun, brilliant, yellow, promising heat, peeks above the hill to the east, sends its long rays reaching down into the forest where fresh snow, light and airy and resting on branches is swept up by the wind, swirled and cascaded and blown through beams of golden light. There is raucous movement outside the window, trees bend one way and then another, throwing their heads about violently, snow already fallen takes to the air again, smoke from the chimney streaks past the window at great speed.
Blue snow in the shadows of the woods is smoothed and polished as the wind finds its way down the trunks to the ground and then up again, taking another branchful of snow with it.
I watch and wait for the wind to tire, at least to find its civilized hum before taking the dogs out into the crackling forest. Winter weakened the trees this year I can’t help but think. Two or three heavy, blanketing snowfalls nearly flattened them, so many fell. The first snow inflicted its damage, set the tone for winter, and then melted.
It was a warm November day after the first snowfall had come and gone when we picked our way cautiously amongst the ailing trees. The woods were soaked after a pounding rain, water collecting at the end of branches in glass globules. There was the creaking and cracking of brittle trunks, the wind coming in waves, ebbing away and then storming back, taunting. “Go on, try me.”
We stopped beneath the aging trees covered in lichen and moss and old man’s beard hanging pastel green from darkened trunks, listened to the pop of wood fibres letting go beneath a great weight and tried to guess which leaning tree might fall next, which was the least tangled amongst the branches of another tree, a bolstering tree.
We cut the walk short as the wind roared again overhead and the sopping brown leaves fallen a month before lay in a slick on the trail.
Murdoch did not stray far, returning when I called as though he too knew the delicate balance of the decrepit trees still standing despite cracks and holes gouged out of their trunks by birds.
I watched the treetops nervously, stopped and waited for the wind to die away before walking another stretch beneath leaning trunks. I had not felt nervous in the wind-tossed woods before, but there had not been so much cracking and popping and that general sense of weakness amongst the trees like there was after that first snow fall, heavy and suffocating. It had come and gone a week earlier pushing over trees that had been balanced just so and bending saplings to the ground, to snapping point.
So I watch on this last day of February as the wind storms through the forest and back again, as it roars overhead, plays roughly with weather-worn trunks and whips the snow on the ground into a frenzy, and I listen for the sound of crashing trees giving way and we wait indoors with the sun streaming through the windows and blown snow streaming across the sun.