Cozy would be the word to describe my rustic cabin. However, at the moment the enclosed space where I make my home feels stifling and encumbered, a prison keeping my thoughts from taking flight. I want to be out in the gelid stillness of our native mountain, in Quebec’s Laurentian range, where my mind can have room to breathe. But the window-high snowdrifts dissuade me from my wintry stroll. Nevertheless, I strap on my snowshoes and pry open the stout timber door. The world beyond lies in pale slumber, a canvas of white and blue. In frozen stasis everything appears more fragile like objects encased in liquid nitrogen.
“One touch and even the sturdy trees might crackle under my hands.”
Their bare ebony fingers linger beneath a translucent glaze, pointing this way and that, a sea of arrows directing me towards untrammeled routes.
As I burrow my way deeper into the trees, my snowshoes leave tennis racket prints on top of the powder. I speculate on what the other animals out and about might think upon encountering my tracks. Maybe this is how myths about unseen creatures propagate. In musing upon my fellow wood fauna I begin to notice hints of their presence. Around a tree trunk tiny three-toed indentations of a winter bird parade in circles. Deeper into the thicket my steps meet those of a foraging raccoon. Burred spoors of unknown beasts cross paths and double back creating neat stitching patterns upon the pearl colored tapestry. They are marks I never notice when I roam these woods, signs that in these hushed environs I am not alone.
Ambling these frigid coppices I am aware that something surprising is about to happen with every step. The austere silence searches me out and underneath its icy caress I hear the tinkling of crystal icicles, the crunch of my soft tread, and the drop of melting snow. I abandon thoughts of disappointments, injuries, and uncertainties. It is as if they happened to someone else.
“I am in the woods and I give myself fully to their immeasurable loveliness.”
There is no majestic landscape here, no spectacle to pull tourists to this spot, yet the elusive jewelry of frost tipped spruces is as spellbinding as the glacier laden slopes of Everest or the moon rising over ancient Roman ruins. Perhaps the beauty comes from the knowledge that no other eyes except mine will see this pathless place. Or perhaps it is because I know a hike tomorrow will not yield me the same sights. Ageless though they are, the woods live only for today.
My snowshoe tramp makes me more aware of my surroundings. The nippy air heightens my senses so that I feel the tingling of vibrating atoms around me. A lone crow breaks the mood, warning the forest of my intrusion. Its raucous call sounds as exotic to me as the roar of tigers. I pause beside the swollen bark of a pine tree and marvel at its ivory veil of fern rime.
“My ramble has transformed me into a foreigner in my grove and I perceive it for the first time.”
Under a snowy garb there are shrubs and hillocks I do not recognize. I traipse through uncharted territory, crossing over hidden creeks and finding exposed windows in between pointy-spindled evergreens. The act of walking has metamorphosed these familiar landscapes into a far-off and unfamiliar destination. I gape at how a place so well-known to me can develop into a new world. No passport is needed, no long journey required. Only a blanket of new-fallen flakes and the magic of a pair of snowshoes on a winter’s day.
BESPOKE TRAVELER TIP #18
We do not have to travel far to enjoy the unfamiliar: become a visitor of your neighborhood and discover all its unnoticed treasures. Study it in different seasons to unearth how your landscape changes over time.
Let’s hear about your snowshoeing adventures! Has a particular walk or local neighborhood inspired you?