I walk on a trail through the woods behind where I live as often as I can.
As often as my body allows.
And it is a truly wonderful thing.
Because it makes my body stronger.
And I’m out in the fresh air, which cheers me immensely.
And I feel muscles in me working: muscles that haven’t really worked for a long, long time.
I walk over a number of little wooden bridges that lift me a bit over whatever small stream happens to be crossing my path.
I keep track of them.
As I do the squirrels that sometimes run alongside me, up in the woods a bit, and then dash across the path in front of me.
And I can never tell if its a celebration of playing with a human, or just where they go every day.
Except it happens very regularly.
A few weeks ago there was a tremendous freeze where I live.
Below freezing temperatures for many days.
I didn’t like the weather suspending my regular outings, although I can have no resentment for that toward Sacred Earth.
It was just that I was getting so used to my walks.
The disruption felt unnatural.
Odd reaction, I realize.
But I knew I couldn’t walk outside. There were hills I walk up and down. And there isn’t that much direct sun down on the trail.
And I didn’t want to slip.
It’s an old-lady thought.
But it’s a real one.
I soothed myself by joining the secret pre-opening mall walkers club.
But the second I felt that it was safe to go outside again for a walk down the steep hill to the trail, I dashed out.
And there were puddles, frozen, on the path. Which I didn’t mind avoiding, if I could, or even getting a little wet when I couldn’t.
It was so cold.
I had knitted myself a soft, blue scarf because I couldn’t find my last one, and I tightened it around my mouth.
I was uncomfortable, here and there, with the cold on my body.
But not very much.
It struck me how quiet the trail was.
How there was no one out there, until near the end, when I met a father and son walking the dog, the humans obviously suffering and wishing the walk over soon.
The cold was solid, even in the air. Like walls that I walked between and through.
So I was surprised by a life’s highlight: a glimpse into the beauty of God.
The brooklets were solid ice.
Or so it first appeared.
I was crossing one wooden bridge, being very careful to step carefully and not just run across as I normally do.
They have a slightly steep rise and fall to them.
They were carefully equipped with anti-slip strips, and I made sure that I aimed for them every time.
And then I heard it.
And was confused.
It was my favorite bridge. The one that crossed a somewhat wild stream. It regularly overflowed its bank. It came to that spot from a few different directions.
It always delighted me.
But it took my breath away that day.
The breath that I managed to have.
And I actually stood there and wondered at what I was seeing.
Just over the rail I saw water flowing under the thick ice.
But it wasn’t just trickling. Just flowing quietly.
It was bouncing and running hard.
There was an echoing gurgling. Echoing off its crust.
It was ebullient.
As though it were celebrating.
And I suppose it was.
Here’s all ganging up to Keep It In Its Place, and it was dashing around as though it had no limitations.
For quite a while, I couldn’t leave the sight.
The contrast was so severe.
It wasn’t a large body of water that could have varying flows caused by different external forces.
It was just this little, bitty stream whose sound I had always enjoyed because right at this spot it was washing over some rocks and flowing down and around, so made a dance of its progress.
But today, the free water was laughing.
And this caused me to wonder and reflect.
I saw myself. Or not myself, to be exact.
I saw that this demonstration rebuked me.
Challenged how when I feel my life has frozen, and slowed and stilled, I forget that life keeps prancing inside me.
It keeps on going where it was headed before the cold set it.
Before the limitations tried to capture it, and make its existence unknown to me.
That day – that sight – made me appreciate the force that life really has to get where it is going.
That feeling stranded, quieted, tamed is just an illusion.
In the bitterest times, there is laughter.