Thanksgiving Eve, 2018
Night had slipped in so effortlessly; temperatures plummeting, heading to ungodly lows. The wind taunted us from just beyond the glass door; what was it saying? Was it a subtle warning disguised within the confines of a relentless howl; the wind unwilling to take responsibility for its unpredictability, or perhaps a simple invitation disguised in a loud whisper, beckoning us to partake in a magical world just beyond the glass door? We were conflicted.
Some of us heard the welcome call, while others were savvy to the beguiling ways of Mother Nature. We pondered the possibilities briefly, our eyes meeting through quick glances, and then, without warning, we gave in to an inexplicable exhilaration; the mere thought of leaving our safe, warm space was no longer a threat, but an adventure. We moved without hesitation, quickly adding layer upon layer, innocently thinking that we could somehow outsmart any unwelcome invasion by whatever existed on the other side of that door.
Within minutes we stood by the sliding glass door again, peering out at the towering skeletal giants swaying in the breezes; their shadows moving eerily across the pure white blanket resting comfortably below. Like children, our excitement grew; four sets of eyes sparkling with intrigue. With one collective deep breath, we slid the door open; the out-of-doors met us swiftly and without an ounce of compassion. A frenzy of bitterly cold air scattered across the curves of our faces. We stepped out onto the deck; our options were endless.
The tears came quickly. Our faces and our brains communicating instantly; “Go back, turn around you fools”. For some reason we did not listen. Our childlike desire to explore said,” Stay the course.” We had no set plan, we just walked, following the leader to wherever he might take us.
With great anticipation, we descended down the deck stairs. The balancing stone, so stoic and yet so Zen, wished us well on our journey as we swiftly passed by. Pushing the wooden gate open, we carefully descended down the snowy path; one behind the other, breathing in the cold air. Our lungs raged at our audacity; pushing the air back out in revolt. With every step, our boots collectively crushed the snow beneath them. The sound was loud; a merciless, crackling echo filled the quiet. We gazed up at the stars, so clearly affixed to the sky. The air was crisp and clean and seemingly untainted. We were on a nature walk; the leader describing the various vegetation on either side of the path. Lifeless and frozen, it had been caught unexpectedly in the clutches of an early winter freeze. We kept walking.
An open snowy-field lay before us, beautiful in its expanse and emptiness. We veered to the left, through a narrow opening; the full moon lit the space. A small, circular, snow-covered patch of land, hidden from view, sat in secrecy, surrounded by towering pines, deciduous trees, low brambles, and leggy swaying fountain grasses. A manmade pond filled a depression; its glassy top reflecting the sky above. Our voices echoed within the circle. Pond stories ensued: an encounter with an inquisitive bear, fond memories of time spent with a faithful canine, and irreplaceable moments of solitude – just a cold beer, an inner tube, and a cool pond on a hot summer day.
We looked up at the glory of the stars and the fullness of the brightest moon. We looked down at the ground; our shadows casting unidentifiable creatures onto the innocent white blanket below. We laughed at ourselves, and then let quiet fill in the spaces. The forest rambled on; was that a bird, a distant howl, or more probably two towering giants sharing a gentle caress as the whispering winds flitted in and around their stark branches. We were absorbed by our surroundings.
We stood as one with Mother Nature; no longer identified as strangers, but as willing companions. She beamed all around us in the simplicity of her workmanship, and we took notice, amazed by her chilling beauty. We appreciated each other more in those moments; vulnerable but comforted, chilled and yet warmly at ease.
Within fifteen minutes, we were back on the path; it was a short trek up the hill. Looking up, we stopped and gazed at the spectacle; the hill was gloriously illuminated by the moon, and the house radiant; sparks of light bursting from every crevice. I ran up the hill like a child to the open gate; my eyes watering. We passed the balancing stone and effortlessly glided up the deck steps. Sliding open the glass door we were met instantly with a fury of warmth; the fire’s hot crackling breath beckoned us in.
I took one quick look back; our foot prints littered the snow; we’d left our mark. Safely inside, we took a collective moment to acknowledge our victory. Our pink wind-chaffed faces and chilled bodies told one story, but our spirits knew of a separate more lasting truth. We’d answered the call of the wild; we’d stepped beyond our physical and mental boundaries into Mother Nature’s welcome embrace.