I woke up to snow. Enough had fallen that the grass was finally covered. The street and sidewalk, too. It finally looked like winter. And still it came down. It was light, so I didn’t expect a great deal of accumulation. Yet it was more than we had had, and I was thankful.
I had to do a few things. Shower, for one. And then my weekly trip to the grocery store. I was afraid it would stop before I could walk in it, so I went as fast as I could. The music in my car – my music – seemed to compete with the snow for my attention, so I turned it off. The groceries bought and put away, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed out the door with my camera.
Even this felt like too much of a delay. Still, I wanted pictures of this, so I made the time. I took some pictures on the street, and then headed down by the river for a few more.
Back up to the house, I took a scarf and my smaller point and shoot (with lots of manual control), then I set out for my walk.
Walking – especially in winter – was the very first form of meditation I ever practiced. I didn’t know it then, and I would have used different words to describe it, but looking back I recognize it as meditation. And it wasn’t long before my spirit guide showed up to share the experience. She was quiet for a long time, letting me feel the snow on my face, under my feet.
I saw a slope that led down to the river, and I nearly took it. Too many snowblowers and cars for my liking up on the road. I was reminded why I used to go walking at night. As I neared the slope, I saw a father watching his kids sledding down. They were giggling and whooping. I was a bit envious of their joy and innocence, of a childhood lost too long ago. My spirit guide did not chide me for self-pity, so I did. I did not begrudge them their fun. Not wanting to interrupt, I continued down the street a ways. Before long, I came across another slope down to the bank. With the laughter of children at my back, I stood right next to the river.
After a few pictures, I decided to walk along the bank rather than climb back up. The ground was uneven, and some trees required detours away from the edge, but it was quiet. Except for the distant hum of cars on the highway, the only sound was of my breath and the quiet crunch of snow under my boots. Periods of big fluffy flakes gave way to moments of very fine grains and then back again. But it never stopped.
Further south I came across a chair right on the river near the bank. Thin ruts in the snow came across the river and up the slope to one of the houses. I thought them too narrow to be made by skis but later convinced myself (with other evidence) that they must have been. At that moment, I wanted to walk across the river myself. My spirit guide, ever present, was still silent, leaving the decision up to me. I thought it foolish to risk drowning.
We continued south sharing thoughts and feelings. I felt bad having brought my phone, but she pointed out that I was not checking it and the few status updates were probably a good idea. Since I had told no one where I was headed, the status updates would provide clues as to where to find the body if something happened. A chuckle. No one else would likely find that funny, but we did. She was serious, I knew, but she laughed with me, too.
I thought we might talk through worries and troubles, a common enough occurrence during these encounters, but she avoided it. Later, she explained that today was just for walking, for reconnecting to the world.
After a bit more time and distance passed, I resolved to cross the river after all. Perhaps it was foolish, as I had seen no other tracks crossing it. But it has been very cold these past few days. I just knew, suddenly and without a doubt, that I would very much regret it if I didn’t try. Looking around, I saw a fallen branch that appeared relatively straight. I broke off smaller branches on it. When I was finished, it wasn’t longer than five feet, shorter than my preference for a staff, but it was sturdy. Using it to probe the ice in front of me, I started across.
It was slick under the inch or so of snow. While it was solid, I very nearly slipped once or twice. My makeshift staff kept me upright and helped me up the bank on the far side.
Now I was near a bike/walking path in Fargo, one I had ridden on many times during the summer. I stayed off it, walking as much on the edge of the bank as the brush and trees allowed. The handful of skiers and joggers, and even a cyclist, were more intrusion than I liked, but they were few and far between.
We trudged along the ground, even more uneven than on the Minnesota side, and through dense stands of saplings. It would have been easy to twist an ankle, but we didn’t care. If I did, it would be easy enough to find help. And if I couldn’t find help, well…
When we came up across the old power plant on the other side, I decided to cross back. The dam was not too much further, and I worried that the ice might not be quite as solid. So I slid down the bank and slowly made my way back to Moorhead.
I decided to continue traveling along the bank rather than climb up. I was not ready to reenter the world dominated by human beings. I would know when I was close enough to my neighborhood to climb back up.
After some time, I came to a small wood. I knew roughly where I was, but the wood was bigger than I realized. I stopped us and asked the trees for their leave to enter. She pointed out that I had no way of knowing whether they were even awake. It’s true, I replied, I am of the air, the wind my home. But water gave me safe passage today – twice! And it seems only proper that I ask these creatures of the earth for their permission. After all, if they are awake, it would be impolite to enter their home without asking. And if they slumber deeply, what does it hurt?
She smiled, and we entered. We made our way around downed trees, refusing to step on any. I took but a few pictures, and then only after again seeking permission. The trees seemed to tolerate my presence, despite the elemental differences between us. As I cleared the wood, I knew I was near where I had taken pictures a few hours earlier. I wanted to continue, but my body balked.
I left the staff with his cousins. I thanked them for safe passage and him for his assistance. My spirit guide smiled again, and we made our way up the slope and home.