Winter has finally set in. After weeks and weeks of waiting-waking each morning to look out in the hopes of seeing a transformed, white world and finding only dirt and frost- winter is here. November 24th is too late for our first real snow, the animals of the forest have suffered for it. The snowshoe hare, betrayed by its already white fur, stood out against the brown earth. The camouflage so cleverly meant to protect it in winter is now the cause of its death. The grouse found no comfort in deep insulating snow tunnels when the temperatures plummeted at the beginning of the month. And the voles, who would normally feast in shrouded safety under a blanket of snow have been left exposed to the predators of the woods.
But all that is forgotten now. We finally did wake up to find a world transformed. It snowed and snowed and snowed. And then it froze. Hard. And a storm blew in. The howling and whistling wind sent snow in a flurry around our house. The windows are covered in ice and the chickens are half-buried in a snow drift. The whirly-birds in our attic are screeching an un-earthly tune. Day and night, they scream out some sort of exotic music which clashes with the low and warm melody of our happy house. The sound of wind howling down our chimney makes me feel cold and sets my nerves on edge. The wood floors of our living room are icy and a draft blows in around the door. We tack blankets around the cracks in an effort to keep out the cold.
The wind has stopped now, but the temperature is still around -20c. I went out to the woods today, to feel alive. Bundled in layers, I didn't feel cold at all, except for a nip on my cheeks. The woods are silent, but the signs of activity and life are left stamped on the ground. The snowshoe hares have rebounded from their unfortunate winter start. Their tracks are abundant, creating highways through the dense brush. No sign of moose yet, but a few deer have passed through the trails. I see no animals on my walk, but I am sure they see me. I get the impression that the animals are watching me, inches from the trail, waiting to burst out the moment I am out of sight. The odd times that I have caught an animal off-guard are so thrilling- those times are one of the reasons that I keep going back to the woods.
When I reluctantly leave after a couple of hours in the forest, I step back into my warm house, cheeks glowing, hair wet from melting frost, and an incurable smile. I love winter.