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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Footprints in the snow

It's not as if we were the first to ever shoe here. Not like uncharted glory. No prize given for breaking the trail or clearing the way. And I'm sure the magic underfoot would still be there, if we'd gone second onto the trail. However, being only my second experience in snow shoes.... It was a combination of amazing.

For those of you experienced at snowshoeing, this post may bore you. I apologize. For those of you who've never been, I suggest reading someone's blog who can teach you how. All I have to offer is my experience of walking through the forest on invisible ground.

Winter in my worst season for seeing. I remember, in my youth, in the days before sunglasses, consistently walking face first into snowbanks. I remember finding the toboggan hill by taking one too many steps. I remember spinning around in the back field of my public school, the bell ringing, and not knowing the way back to class. I remember walking carefully through my backyard to pull ice chunks up to stand them up in circle to make forts.... Then forgetting where I'd put them four steps later. Winter is not my best seeing season, but I do so love winter.

Back to shoeing....


My first snowshoe was with Nathan, who bravely picked me up for 7.5km of run/walking on a trail. The trees told stories as we followed the prints of those who had gone before us. It was so much fun to trust what I couldn't see or feel underfoot. A lot of my running sense comes from feeling the ground with each step. Now there was a layer between me and that. Delayed reaction with each step as sensory receptors were more distant. Running down a hill scared the day lights out of me and I remember thinking... Fear is only as big as we perceive it, so if I can't see this fear in the invisible white wash background ... Then why am I afraid and squealing like a toddler?

Yesterday, we left Barrie and it's beautiful trails and Scott took us to Cranberry Marsh for snowshoeing and wine tasting. Ok you can giggle now. Give the blind girl wine and a sightless season to snowshoe in. Thankfully the wine came last. So tasty too.


Who needs maps? Our predecessors found their way on memory, feeling, intuitive sense of the earth. Has this ever occurred to you when lost on a run? They just went. They made their way amongst the most difficult terrain and footing. So please tell me how it is that I have lost this seemingly generational skill to navigate an earth far wiser than me? Where are the gifts from my foremothers? Where are the honed in perceptions of my sense of direction? Oh hell, where are the tree blazes?  And what's with colour coded maps? The best adventures always lose sight of the goal in the process. And so we merely forged forward and smiled every step. 

They said the trail was groomed the day before, but 8 inches of new snow had fallen. I saw nothing. No tracks to follow, no evidence of ground at all, let alone a trail. Snowshoeing, for me, is like cloud hopping. There could be a twenty foot drop my next step, I'd never see it coming. It's difficult to even feel that coming. My feet so distant from the earth. Such a displaced, almost visiting, kind of feeling. 


The views were breathtaking. That might have been easy to read. It's harder to write. My views were breathtaking. My perception of what the earth woke up to present to us yesterday, were magical. Heavy, icing like snow, hung from the trees, weighing down the boughs, as if to bring them closer to the ground for the season. Pulling them in protectively from the cold, like a parent would a child. Bringing them nearly close enough to kiss.... But not quite. Granting them just enough room to breathe above the snow. A wise decision for adolescent trees, we never wish to smother them.

The rocks stood covered in four feet or more of snow, standing taller than me in some cases. These passings made me grateful I was following, I'd never have seen them coming. Walking into a snow covered rock might hurt a bit more than the average playground snowbank. The only evidence I saw, was the indented hollow formed at the rocks bottom where the snow seemed to forget to fall. As if the rocks feet smelled and the snow was merely giving it space of its own to stand tall in the wind. 

And then there was the wind.... You could take me anywhere and I could stand for hours just listening to the wind. Such stories it tells. Such tales of depth and lingering emotion. The wind brings the trees to song with its dance among them. The wind cares not for how you feel when it's away; it only wishes to know how you feel surrounded by its wealth. Yesterday's wind shared the following tale....

"I'm sad" said the wind. "It's only winter after all, not like I'm dead here, not like I'm sleeping. Yet not many come to visit here in the winter. Not many bring their friends. Fewer listen when they come. Most cover their ears, shut me out. I have things to say. DID YOU HEAR ME? I have things to say! It's lonely sometimes you know. Especially in the dark. Then I call to the trees and ask them how they are. Sometimes they ignore me too. Lots of them are missing these days. They seem to have left me too. I'm glad you came today. I'm glad I could wrap my arms around you for a while. Share with you this sense of place. I'll feel you again, I'm sure. You're one of those runner folk I've heard tell about? Yes trail runners know me well, in all seasons it seems. You are brave folk. Go home. Tell your friends. Bring them out to touch me. I promise them kisses. And stories that will keep them awake on their journey"

We stood still for only moments to listen, but it repeated the same verse for our entire hike. As if daring me to ignore it or forget it. Or maybe praying I would retell it. Often times the tale is lost in the winds aggression. It's rather easy to be bitter about having to endure it's telling.

The end of our hike finished with a small downhill. It claimed my first fall. The snow was kind enough, and deep enough to cushion the landing. And I lived to share my adventure. There's nothing you can't do. I'm learning this every day. Bravery has little to do with that. Trust has a much bigger role. 

Much love on the run(or hike/bike or swim)

rm