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A Winter Walk


By: Kristin Dunker


As the last pinky-purple tones of a rich January sunrise shift to make way for the intense white light of the winter sun, I bundle up head-to-toe in wool and fleece to brace against the chill.

I'm not made of, as they say, "hearty stock".

Hitting the pavement and picking up my pace more quickly than usual so that my body starts producing some welcome heat, I round the bend into a nearby neighborhood. It's my favorite haunt for cold weather walking because it is largely shade-free.

It seems I beat the sun over the largest hill today - this morning's frost lies thick and textured. It almost looks like snow! Sparkling, dazzling, as one ray then another break over the crest. I stop to snap a few pictures of this feathery display of hoarfrost art before it's gone. Such intricate formations…it's easy to get lost in such beauty.

As I reluctantly resume my forward progress it is very quiet for a few more moments still. I breathe in the rare alone-ness. It feels like I'm the only creature who has been lucky enough to experience this newborn day thus far. And then, all at once, a flock of tiny winter birds come flying down from the forest! I call them “winter birds” because that's when I see them the most around here: chickadees, titmice, juncos… They land in a nearby naked birch tree - decorating it as though they were living ornaments. Singing as if they owned the world!

The lake is a rich royal blue this morn, with a low-lying mantle of clouds hugging along the bottom of Smith Mountain. Almost like the water is wearing a rabbit stole that slowly rises with the sun.

A few hearty fishermen are out on the water. Hoping for a good catch, but also, I'd imagine, feeding their souls on the nourishing food of golden silence and time with only one's thoughts to keep you company.

A particular landscape I always look forward to is actually nowhere near the water but found in an unassuming vacant lot. If I hit the timing just right, the sun starts piercing through the scrub pines at the back of the land and sets the long golden grasses by the road ablaze! Every day I pass it, I think of what a magical backdrop it would make for portraits.

Breakfast (or more accurately my growling stomach) starts calling me back toward home. I quicken my steps for one last hurrah and shift focus from what's around me to what lies ahead. Taking in a deep, icy breath…I feel a wave of gratitude for this crystalline day - ready to discover what other treasures might be waiting just around the next bend.

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