Winter Postcard

Photo: Birds Calgary

Mother Nature has been kind to the inhabitants of our small part of the planet this winter. She placed us all at the centre of this virus storm, probably in an act of rebellion for the disrespect we have shown the planet.  But now she  she seems to be relenting  by offering us a winter of inestimable beauty.

There is snow – lots of it – for skiing, sledding, show shoeing or just walking. The scenery is a photographer’s dream. I’ve seen stunning photos of wintry landscapes, a magnificent snowy owl, and horses gleefully cantering in the snow, leaving a trail of powdery snow dust behind them.

Recently we went snow shoeing at a nature park. The trail was a pristine carpet of white, bordered by dark-green fir trees on either side, as if a giant garland was wrapped around it. As we walked, I spotted a pileated woodpecker up ahead. (This might make me sound smart, but I knew the bird by its simpler French name, “Grand Pic”. “Grand” means big in French because this species is much larger than others in the woodpecker family. I had to look up the English translation.)

The woodpecker had latched onto the trunk of one of the trees, his scarlet-red crest adding a splash of bright colour to the scenery. His beak hammered repeatedly at the trunk, the sound echoing in the silence of the forest.

Ben was behind me and I signaled him to stop so we could watch from a distance without scaring him away. After a few minutes, we inched forward until we were facing him. Slowly, Ben took out his cell phone and took a few steps off the trail and into the deep snow closer to the tree. The bird wasn’t at all daunted. He accepted our presence as if we were other woodland friends like Bambi or Thumper. Ben snapped a few pictures which did not do justice to the handsome fellow and then we moved on, leaving him to continue foraging for his dinner.

The moment reminded us that we are privileged to share this planet with such beautiful creatures. Maybe that was Mother Nature’s plan all along.

Freeing the trees with Harry Potter, Glinda and Snow White

The regal fir tree in our backyard was beaten and downtrodden after the snowstorm that whipped through our area. Its mighty branches were weighted down from the base of the trunk to the pine needles at their very tips. The bottom ones were bent so low they were splayed on the ground. From behind the patio doors, my fertile imagination placed me at the centre of a Harry Potter scenario.

An evil wizard had put a hex on the tree. “Help me, please,” the tree pleaded. Its branches were trapped beneath a web of heavy, white foam that was tightly wrapped around them. With the help of the wind, the tree struggled valiantly to free itself, but to no avail.

Like Harry , I had to do something! Quickly, I put on my boots, coat, hat and mitts and trudged in the knee-deep snow to the base of the tree.  I had no magic wand and I thought shouting “Expecto Patronum!” would have the neighbours muttering about the crazy woman next door. Instead, I morphed into  elegant Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. I didn’t have a  glamorous, glittery gown or a shiny headpiece, but I more than made up for it in good intentions.

I gently shook one of the lower branches. Like magic, the foam web dissolved, transforming into a beautiful layer of thick, white snow. Freed of its burden, the branch soared majestically upward sending snow tumbling down on my head, face and clothes. At the same time, I heard a soft, low rumble, like the sound of a mini-avalanche that ended in a soft sigh. I think the tree whispering “Thank you!”

I continued liberating every branch I could reach and each one sprang gracefully back to life. Somewhere in his hidden lair, I imagined the evil wizard screaming “No! No!”  as he cursed me. But then, like Snow White, I was sure bluebirds were trilling and squirrels and other forest creatures were doing a happy dance. All was well with the world.

Hope Springs Eternal

Yesterday we woke to snow falling fast and furious, covering the bare ground in a thick white carpet. But it quickly changed to big, fat snowflakes floating lazily down from a fluffy, pewter-gray cloud ceiling. By mid-morning, the sun had elbowed the clouds away and shone brilliantly in a sky so blue it almost hurt to look at it.

The call of the outdoors was irresistible and I pulled on my boots, coat and mitts and called, “Going for a walk!” to Ben, who was absorbed in the newspaper. I pulled the door shut behind me and stepped into the crisp, clean air.  Everywhere I looked, fresh snow coated the roofs of houses and clung, like a pristine cape, to the trees.

Neighbours shoveling walkways waved and wished me Happy New Year as I passed. I heard the ring of a family laughing in their backyard and imagined them building  a snow man together.  At a local park, children in colourful snowsuits trudged up a snow-laden hill, their bright red, blue and yellow plastic sleds fluttering behind them. Others shrieked with pure joy, as they sledded to the bottom, only to clamber off their sleds and make their way up for another run.

The outside world had been transformed to a real-life holiday card. Much of December, including Christmas Day, had been a dreary, bleak, wet affair. That ever-present film of mist had seeped into my thoughts and moods, so that I viewed the world through gray-tinted glasses. Now, magically, with one beautiful winter day, Mother Nature gave me back my clear vision.

This year is filled with so much hope for the entire planet. If this one, perfect day gifted to us is a sign of things to come, we will be just fine. Happy New Year.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

― Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man