I love how winter provides opportunities to move through natural spaces in unique and different ways compared to the same landscape during the growing seasons. Herbaceous vegetation that has died back allows access to places that are normally too overgrown the rest of the year. Freezing temperatures mean you can literally walk on water. Deep snow makes steep slopes easier to navigate. Throw on a pair of snowshoes and suddenly your feet can take you places that simply aren't all that accessible any other time of the year.
On the farm this means exploring areas off the beaten paths and venturing into a world that rarely sees human tracks. There is something marvellous and magical about being able to do this in such an otherwise urban environment. On a recent snowshoe I climbed to the top of a ridge overlooking Green's Creek. There under the shelter of a large hemlock tree were a series of tracks and two oval depressions in the snow where some deer had lain down to sleep. I stopped for a moment, closed my eyes and imagined the deer choosing the spot, protected from the wind by thick conifer trees on one side, the sharp edge of the creek cliff providing a barrier to the north and a gentle, open, sloping view to the west. I imagined them relaxing their vigilance (I've seen the coyotes and their tracks, and collected the deer jawbones around, and know the constant risk these prey animals are in) and being lulled to a wary sleep by the nearby thrum of the 174.
Suddenly, interrupting my quiet ruminations, I heard measured, crunching steps in the snow. There, down at the bottom of the gentle slope, was a single deer, the same grey-brown as the bark of the trees around me and thus somewhat camouflaged, staring at me as if to ask, "What are you doing in my bedroom?" For a long moment we both stood still and silent in the cold air, and then making a murmured apology for my presence I walked on, touched and grateful for such an intimate encounter with one of the wild creatures I share a home with.
If you have the opportunity this winter, I invite you to try and find an appropriate place outdoors to explore that is otherwise not accessible in the same way the rest of the year. Go for a walk on a creek, river or lake (keeping common sense and ice safety in mind of course) or a skate on the canal if you're in Ottawa. Tromp off into woods somewhere and enjoy the fact that there are no bugs. Follow animal tracks in the snow and see where they take you. And if you have an outdoor, winter story to tell I'd love to hear about it!
"My passion is sharing the wisdom of plants with others. I love to see the transformation that occurs when people realise how surrounded we all are by nutritious, edible and medicinal plants, even in urban environments."
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