Bundle up. Coat, hat, mittens, scarf. Don't take your camera. Stuff your hands in your pockets and leave them there, after you've tied your boots of course. Now go outside and stroll the paths that traverse wherever it is you call home. Go alone.
Look, listen, smell. Take the moment. A wise man once said, "Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory." Sometimes. But not this time. This time, value the moments individually as if you could hold them in your hands - which should be balled-up in your pockets.
See your breath against the cold air, turn around and find your footprints, name the color in the sky-pale moon gray, whisper white, fiery blue. Be careful though. If you let your mind wander it just might go back to work or school or home. Breathe in the now, don't let it go.
Photo by Terry Lebaron
This time of year, snow may have lost its novelty - especially here. But there is something about a solitary winter walk that can bring excitement back into the season. Not necessarily the boisterous excitement of childhood, but a more tempered, calm, insightful enthusiasm that refreshes your perspective after the holiday whirlwind is over.
As you stroll, rekindle the curiosity of childhood. Take your time; bend over to examine even the curly brown leaf stranded on the winter landscape. You may be lucky enough to observe winged hemlock seeds taking flight. The cones won't open unless the weather is very cold and dry so if Jack Frost is nipping at your nose (this early into your walk) you stand a good chance of catching a glimpse of the renegades. Of course, a hemlock tree growing nearby is a must.
If your meandering happens to take you down a forest path, you might observe a strange-looking green fern, a Christmas fern which stays green all through this snowy season. The leaflets have often been compared to the shape of a stocking. And, should you leave the well-beaten trail and follow a narrow, winding deer trail, you may discover some peculiar depressions. These are deer beds. White-tailed deer are always wary, closer examination of the depressions will reveal that each of the individuals faced in a different direction while they rested - for much the same reason as pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail circled their wagons.
But perhaps you are walking through suburbia; in that case, you are more likely to see flocks of Cedar Waxwings gathering whatever berries they can find still clinging to exposed foliage. Or maybe you will catch a glimpse of some other colorful, winged winter inhabitants. The cardinal, blue jay, and black-capped chickadee are common sightings in and around bird feeders this time of year.
Look, listen, smell. You are sure to see many a mysterious track or sign on your winter walk. May your discoveries and whatever is left of the Christmas spirit fill you with cheer and revitalize you for this new coming year.
Audubon trails are always open from dawn to dusk. Visit often. The Center is open for special holiday hours, please check our website, jamestownaudubon.org or call 569-2345. We are located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown.
Crin Fredrickson is a seasonal naturalist at Audubon. She is studying environmental science at Green Mountain College and loves the outdoors.