Friday is for Favorites: Walking Through Woods on a Snowy Evening. Awkwardly. On Snowshoes.
The world in snowstorm is a pretty remarkable place.
It has snowed eighteen inches over the last twenty-four hours here in Vermont. All sorts of people—snowboarders, skiers, old people, young people, little marshmallow children in puffy snow jackets (their arms stick out at their shoulders because they can’t get their arms down and it’s adorable)—are hitting the slopes, rejoicing in the fresh snow that was nonexistent last winter. For years, my whole family has snowboarded; Mom, Kate, and I make nice, slow S turns all the way down, and my brothers and Dad tear down the mountain at literal breakneck speed. I love snowboarding. I’m convinced it is the closest I’ll get to flying unassisted, and I have yet to find elsewhere the exhilaration of wind flying through my lungs and four inches of powder under my board. Going fast is terrifying and brilliant. Something I learned this past week, however, is that going slowly through snow is just as exhilarating.
For Christmas, Mom and Dad got me a pair of snowshoes. I’d never gone snowshoeing before, but, willing to try almost anything that involves winter, I pulled on my snowpants and Mom’s winter boots, took the dogs outside, and strapped the funky contraptions to my feet. What I did not realize until afterward is that snowshoes, much like regular shoes, have a left and right shoe. For forty-five minutes of wandering through the woods, I had them on backwards. Who would have known that wearing them on the correct foot actually does make a difference? (Side note: I have gone since that first adventure, and, believe it or not, they are labeled L and R. Now I know.)
Regardless of my backward snowshoe situation, I walked with the dogs into the woods behind the house and was blown away. It had just begun to snow, so the sky, the snow, and the trees were all different shades of silver. The branches were already blanketed. Manny and Lexi, our two big dogs, burrowed through the drifts around me; every once in a while, Lexi’s black nose popped out, and her usually black and brown muzzle would be caked in pristine bluish silver. Vinny, our terrier, hopped through my tracks like a bunny rabbit.
The woods were silent; my snowshoes plodded along, and the dogs panted and wrestled, but everything else was still. There wasn’t wind. No leaves rustled, and no birds chirped. The only thing that was present was the transcending peace of being in a naturally created space and the soft shadows of the trees. It wasn’t scary, even though I felt infinitely small. The woods occupy a good deal of horror fiction, of bogeyman tales, but they aren’t unnerving in a storm. They provide a solace and stillness that seem to exist nowhere else.
In this crazy world, there aren’t a lot of moments when I’m forced to remember just how fleeting every instant is. But as the snowflakes fall, sticking to my eyelashes and touching to my outstretched tongue, slowly burying my snowshoes until Lexi steps on the back of them and trips me, I remember that Robert Frost poem. It would be lovely to just stay in the woods, wouldn’t it? To get to stand with the trees in their timelessness and watch the drifts accumulate sounds beautiful. Sometimes, I feel like I could be irresponsible and just remain in my creative worlds, wrapping myself in their coziness and stillness and forgetting that their heavy snow can be dangerous if I stay out too long. I have to remember to return to the warmth of the fireplace at home with my friends and family. I always have to return to my life.
What I always have to remember is that I have promises to keep—school, friends, family, future adventures. What is of absolute importance to remember is that art cannot be art for art’s sake, at least not for me; my life makes my art interesting, not the other way around. These promises are the reason I can so love moments like watching the snow fall, no one but God, me, and the dogs as a witness.
I have miles to go before I sleep. Will you join me in this awakefulness?