Before I was married, and my wife Lisa and I moved to the Yukon, my home was built on the northern borders of the Township of Oro-Medonte, in Central Ontario, where I just happened to be the deputy mayor. It is a land of rolling hills, valleys and rippling cold water streams, where many a speckled trout had graced our dinner table.
It is beautiful at the time of year when the hardwood tree leaves turn the township into blazing shades of orange red, brown and yellow. Driving down the rural roads within the valleys and hills I realized that the “Great One, on high,” must favour those of us who were blessed to live in this peaceful rural township.
On one occasion, as I looked out my living room window, the blazing colours had all turned to white, buried under a foot of snow. How dreaded cold it seemed.
I reached into my pant pocket for a hanky and when pulling the hanky out, I turned my pocket inside out. The inner side of my pocket was absolutely white. When I looked outside of the window again at the snow covered valley below, I realized that this is what the “Good Maker” had done to old Oro-Medonte.
He simply turned the summer inside out to give nature a well-deserved rest.
I poured a fine sip of Crown Royal 8 and 18, put another log on the fire in the fireplace, sat back in my chair, and for the first time in years, thought winter wasn’t so bad after all.
There was a time when I enjoyed snowshoeing in a winter wonderland… yes, that’s what I had once called it “a winter wonderland.”
I put my fine drink down, got out of the Lazy Boy chair, walked to my office closet and pulled out some of my old winter clothes. Next I went to the garage and took down from the rafters a pair of old traditional snowshoes, opened the door of the dog run and called to my German shorthaired pointer (the second one I had in my life): “Hunt ’em up.”
Baron bounced from his heated dog house, all 75 pounds of muscle that wound up on my lap while I was knocked spread eagle on my back in the snow by a dog that was eager to get to the bush. I‘m sure he was telling me to get with it; winter is ours to enjoy.
I pulled the snowshoes on and we headed down into the forest of large hemlock and pine trees that towered high in the valley.
“Hunt ’em up,” I again I hollered to Baron, even though he was already doing so. “A fine upland bird dog,” I said to myself, even though it wasn’t birds he was hunting, but rather it was more like squirrels and mice in brush piles.
My first dog, called The Barron, would have put his head down with his paws covering his eyes, to see his name’s sake hunting squirrels and mice. But, it didn’t really matter as we were out there enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company.
As we traversed the valley and looked up at the high banks, I could see the red winter berries standing out bright against the winter snow. Somehow the red winter berries stood out much brighter than the artificial Christmas lights that adorned our Christmas tree. Now I could appreciate what nature could do as it decorated itself with Christmas ornaments abound.
As we walked along the valley, the silence of the snow covered ground seemed as rewarding as the rustle of the autumn leaves. As we walked alongside of the ice covered beaver pond, the old beauty of winter rushed back to me once more. The quacking of the ducks and geese was now absent, but had been replaced with a silence so beautiful.
In the middle of the pond, the now empty geese nests I had built last spring were topped with mounds of snow.
As we crossed the ice I picked up some snow, made a snow ball and tossing it into the air, I hollered “Fetch!” to my loyal hunting pal. No sooner had the snowball hit the snow packed ice, Baron had a mouthful of snow. Much to his curiosity, nothing remained in his mouth. Twisting around in a few circles and looking for the ball that had eluded him. He looked back at me and seemed to be asking where that confounded ball had disappeared to?
We walked to the edge of the deer yard, and I sat down under a large white pine tree, whittled out a couple dry sticks piled some dry pine needles under the sticks and built myself a small fire. I once again found myself in a state of supreme and beautiful solitude. The small fire would neither boil a pot of water nor even warm my hands, but its small glitter, that I watched with half closed eyes, gave me a warm feeling inside.
High above, a hawk swooped down into a small clearing and clutched a mole as it carelessly crossed an open space on top of the snow. Nature was now writing me a book about the nature of things, that few other eyes would ever have the pleasure of witnessing.
Small flakes of snow started to fall that seemed to magnify the beauty I was being blessed with. My cup certainly runneth over. I became overwhelmed with the feeling of “Peace on Earth.”
If only I had my axe, I could have cut a few dry logs to build a warmer fire. No doubt I would have spent the night there, as I had a number of years ago. Watching the shadows dance in front of one’s own camp fire, as well by chance, hearing the howl of a wolf in the opera of the wilds, is a moment known only to those who dare to venture into the winter white backcountry.
The light of day had fast diminished and was replaced by a full moon. I longed to stay and spend the night there in the grasp of this winter wonderland. Alas, Baron and I started back to the waiting living room fireplace. As I walked along the side of the open trout stream of the valley, I remembered how, just a few months ago, nature wrote its book in blazing colours. Now, as she cleverly turned herself inside out, she wrote the pages white on white.
Add a friend who understands and a dog that often stands on your snowshoes. Light a fire and stay until the shadows dance on the white coloured snow and the curious animals advance. Stay until the pages unfold, until solitude becomes a peaceful trend. Then you will experience “peace on earth, to men of goodwill.”