walking in Candyland…
It’s been 30 years since I walked through this swamp in the middle of January.
Back then I was a young man chomping at the bit to get out and see the world.
Now, I return grateful for the privilege of sabbatical time, for some quiet time away from the world.
For most my working adult life, mid-winter found me in the city (or somewhere working in warmer climates).
Away from here, when I dreamed of the farm, it was of summer and rain and gardens and swimming and canoeing.
I had all but forgot about this candyland in the winter – of 10cm of fresh snow and blinding blue winter skies, and temperatures south of -20C.
I both remembered and had forgotten the deep silence of the forest in the winter. The cracking sound of a frozen tree, the sound of crisp snow under your boots, the fields of diamonds setting your eyes ablaze.
Out in the big field a crow circled overhead for a good 2 minutes, following us, cawing down at us; as if trying to tell us something. But what? Leave! Stay! Hello? I do not know.
It finally drifted off on a current, drifting out over the lake and slowly out of range.
We cross deer tracks and coyote tracks and lynx tracks – the back pines a veritable freeway of tracks left behind by last night’s passing animals. (We were awoken around 2am last night by a lone coyote wailing under a 1/2 moon in the back field – the third time we have heard either coyotes or wolves in the night since we came back to the farm.)
We follow tracks along the edge of the swamp that go upstream to the lake and then across the lake to the pine forest on the other side. They are fresh, for the dog eagerly sniffs at them and runs 1/2 to the other side before he realizes that I am not following him (happily giving chase to me when I turn and head back into the woods.)
Lumpy is a Newfie/Labrador cross who is as happy in the winter as I am in the summer. He has a heavy double-layered coat of fur that leaves him panting from the heat for the most of the year. He was sheared of most of his coat about 2 months ago, which always leaves him gloriously light and happy, and he plows through and rolls in the fresh snow as if he were a 3-month old puppy discovering it all again for the very first time. All over again.
Big spaces are made for big dogs – and whatever it was that Lumpy’s previous life was – his karma has been richly rewarded, as he is a well-cared-for dog with 200 acres to call home. Insatiably curious as all dogs are, he loves nothing more than to go for a walk – morning, noon, or night – or to play with the young colts, spot a deer, chase a squirrel up a tree.
He bounds for joy the moment we drive into the yard, and literally cries for joy as he greets each of us getting out of the car.
He is forever bound to be a happy 4-year-old boy at play in the fields of the Lord.
What a happy life!
So we spend 3 hours together, walking this way and that, through this winter dreamscape – the snow like crystal powder, the sun bright, the sky bluer than blue.
I’m already nostalgic – for those 3 hours that were like a dream – reminding of my childhood – reminding me of when I was 19, walking through this frozen swampland, eager and ready and chomping at the bit to get out and see the whole big wide world.
Knowing full-well that there will probably not be another sabbatical such as this until I retire…