I noticed her up ahead. Her winter coat, gloves, hat, and scarf screamed winter is not over. I recognize her as I get closer. The tomato lady. She sells heirloom tomatoes from a stand in her driveway. Her yard is full of wild, magical plants. But here she was stopped in the middle of the road. Waiting for me. But why?
It had been a while since I had been out on a run. Weeks of cold and snow kept me in the basement on the elliptical. Today was unseasonably warm; it felt good to be out in a thin shirt, no gloves or hat for once. Earbuds in, uplifting music playing, I was working up a sweat and could feel hope refilling my body.
Do you hear that?
The sandhilll cranes.
I listened. I could hear their rolling cry. The sound of their rattling bugle calls.
She pointed them out in the sky.
I could see the large group of them flying in and out of the clouds.
We chatted for a minute about the sandhilll cranes–their migration, this phenomenon that happens every year in late February/early March.
Then I was on my way. Earbuds back in, but with hesitation. I am quick to plug in to music, a podcast, or a book on my runs or walks. Happy to have some time to listen to things I enjoy. But what about listening to nature? Taking a walk to enjoy the free soundtrack of the earth. Part of being a writer is noticing the small moments. Ones that others dismiss or never see. I bet the tomato lady is a writer. I can tell by her thoughtful appreciation of the cranes and her careful attention to her tomatoes. I am reminded today to unplug, look around, and let my body be filled with the hope that nature brings. And then, of course, to write about it.
The snow started to fall at about 5:00 pm. The giddy anticipation of a snow day was in the air. Even though in modern times a snow day equals elearning, my body is conditioned to wish for that text that says school is closed. I guess it’s like muscle memory…the snow starts to fall and the longing begins.
Later that evening, when my body is usually winding down for bed, my husband asks, “Want to go for a night walk?” My first response is, “It’s too late,” but the snow begs for us to tread through it. Our footprints, the first to break the surface of the pristine, white surface.
Josie senses the excitement coming as we layer up and put on our boots. She is twirling in circles in the entryway, almost 12 years old, but acting like a puppy. These are her favorite adventures. Unleashed and running, snout buried in the fresh powder.
As we leave the house, the calm settles over us. The only sound is the crunching of the snow beneath our boots. The only light is the bright reflection of the ground that leaves a pinkish hue in the sky. We tromp and tread and plod through the snowfield behind our house. Breathing in the beauty of a winter wonderland, thankful I ignored the thought of just staying in.
P.S. We did get the text school is closed.
As we crossed at the white lines painted horizontally on the pavement, I saw a gold colored SUV. I knew we would encounter someone on the trail. We walked a bit, Hudson kicking his feet in a steady rhythm on the stroller’s foot rest. We stopped to look at tiny red berries growing in clumps of two or three on a bush. Hudson strained to get out to reach them. “These are for the birds,” I explained. “The birds eat the berries.”
We continued on the trail getting closer to the stream. As we approached, I could see two small figures playing on the bank and one larger one sitting on the concrete wall separating the trail and the water. The two boys playing were probably elementary school age. They were digging, throwing rocks, examining treasures found in the sand. Everything you would expect from a child in this setting.
All the while, “mom” sat on the edge and wrote in her notebook. Wrote. Not on her phone scrolling social media, not talking pictures for Instagram, not texting a friend, but writing. What was she writing? A fantasy tale of enchanted kingdoms? A description of the beautiful fall day and the trees, the creek? A snapshot of time as her boys played alongside the water? Whatever she was writing, it was so refreshing to see a family enjoying nature in the moment, savoring the simplicity of sand and water and words. This fellow writer has inspired me to sit alongside nature soon with my notebook and let my thoughts flow.
I take the same picture every year. We have lived in our current house for almost 13 years, and I have close to that many pictures of this scene. The blooming Magnolia trees on our block. I watch them closely, from no bud, to bud, to partially opened bud, to partially flowering, to flowering, to petals falling, to gone. This is the focus of my daily walk from mid March through early April. Checking in on the Magnolia trees. I’ve always looked forward to these trees blooming and found particular joy in watching them, but this year it seems extra important.
I need the stability of things in nature right now. I find strength in noting things that haven’t changed. The sunrise, the singing birds, the green coming forth from the earth, the blooming magnolias. In this time of uncertainty, Mother Nature reminds me to stay calm, to stay steady, to find strength in the rhythm of nature.