In this present moment, the second snowfall of the season is upon us. The first one occurred a few days ago. I wasn’t amused. I secluded a bit more than normal and when asked by a 10 year old in a high-pitched, exuberant voice if I was excited about the snow, I couldn’t even muster up a lie; I just said, “No. I’m not ready for it yet.”
I’ve had a cough for a month. So I haven’t slept well for a month. My daughter had a fever this week. So nobody has slept well all week. Work is a bit stressful. And now, this snow. So soon. So sudden.
I am exhausted. Beyond exhausted. So tired that I feel a little amped up, seeking stimulation more than usual, more inclined to reach for a screen and a chocolate bar than my running shoes.
Around noon there was about a half inch of new powder on the ground. I had a wild idea. I embarked on it before I could change my mind. I grabbed my sleeping bag. I untied the hammock from the porch – surely, we’re not gonna need it there for another 6 months – and stuffed both plus an apple in a backpack. I put on my new down coat, laced up my snowboots, notified my family of where I’d be, and walked out the door. I walked to the woods. The woods in our neighborhood. A secluded little patch of trees and watershed and rolling hills tucked away behind some houses that hardly anyone knows about.
I was gonna rest in the woods, in this light, bright, noontime snowfall. I was gonna turn that frown upside down.
As I was walking down the street past the restaurants and shops, I was self conscious of friends and neighbors spotting me. Was anyone asking, what is Amelia doing in a snowfall with a sleeping bag strapped to her back? It’s easier to be eccentric in the safety of your own home. I was aware of how unusual this might look, and I didn’t like being potentially spotted. I sped up a little and was relieved when I reached the edge of the woods. I was finally alone.
I followed the least traveled trail and meandered my way around and across fallen trees. I scoped out the perfect spot: it had a view of the creek zone, was far enough away from any house to feel private, was away from the trail so as not to
interact with startle anyone who meandered by, and located the two best trees. I’m deeply partial to my brightly colored Central American hammock and all the memories it comes with. As a chronic, no-nonsense purger, it’s one of the few things I’ve kept over the last decade. And here it was – in its red, yellow, and green glory, hanging in a brown and white Minnesota landscape, catching snow. I unfurled my sleeping bag, slipped of my boots, and dove in.
Until this point, everything had made noise. The synthetic fibers of my pants, coat, boots, backpack, sleeping bag, and gloves rustled-rustled-rustled all the way there. Tromping through the snow to hang up the hammock caused a few crows – about 7, probably not enough to be a murder – to crankily caw caw at me, and then flap-fly away in a huff. I was sad to lose them. They are what I’d come for, nature and simplicity, and I’d scared them off. But I after I settled into the bag-hammock combo and the world went silent again, I automatically sighed. Deeply.
I stayed until I started to feel cold. Estimated about 45 minutes. Not bad, I thought, for a first season’s snowstorm rest. At one point, I instinctively pulled the sleeping bag over my face and lowered my eyelids. I was so tired. And suddenly, easily, naturally so relaxed. After just a few minutes, I was as relaxed as after an hour-long massage. I’m not exaggerating. The cold, fresh air and the comfort of the bag-hammock, and the quiet of the woods was deeply rejuvenating. As I’d hoped.
A woodpecker visited. A small red squirrel skittered by. I looked down and noticed an animal’s borrow hole. Perched over the crest of a small hill, I looked down toward the wetland and it appeared brighter and lighter and more vibrant than before. I no longer saw brown and white, which is code for ugly and dreadful. I saw green everywhere frozen in place on branches everywhere, not yet late enough in the season for all the leaves to have fallen. I saw pillows of exploded cattails not yet released from stems. I felt peace and calm. I saw change happening before my eyes, the shift from fall to winter.
The constant rotation of the earth seemed important suddenly to remember: nothing is constant.
I packed up, finished my little hike, and headed back into “town.” I decided to stop into the library and use a public computer to write this post instead of going home and maybe writing it another day. This retreat – a total now of 2 hours and 21 minutes – has restored me. I’m ready to deal with the daily mundane, the dishes and laundry and bills, the routine. And the snow.
Now, yes, I think I’m ready to deal with the snow.
This post is a part of a series where I chronicle my efforts at staying near my neighborhood for one year.