The short, dark says of winter make our walk home more siginificant. Arriving home from work or other engagement is not accomplished as quickly as during the summer months. The class VI road on which we live is not maintained, and while we can maneuver a truck down to our property line when the ground is bare, snow cover of course negates such ease. So we park by the cemetery for which our road is named, then snap on skis or buckle on snowshoes, and head for home. From the cemetery it’s a third of a mile to our cabin.
And this time of year, the walk often happens in the dark. Sometimes we walk by headlamp, sometimes by memory, sometimes by moonlight. The walk offers wonderful moments of transition between the demands of the outside world and Home. I say walk – you understand that I’m the snowshoer of the two of us. Regardless of our mode of movement, Ryan and I both agree. The walk has a certain beauty to it, even in the dark. Sometimes it’s cold, sometimes it’s frustrating when there’s lots to carry, sometimes it’s demanding when our tiredness is great. But it ensures a few minutes of reflection, a time for our minds to slow down and release the concerns of the day. It is both calming and awakening, and allows us to recognize our own desire to be home. Despite cold, wind, snow, and storms, there is nothing harsh about these minutes on foot. If anything it is intensely personal. Thoughts crystallize, concerns fade, and our mental pace moderates. The weather, the sky, the stars, the temperature, the creak of the trees and the lean of their boughs: each of these details comprise the background for our pedestrian commute.
As the old road bends to the left then leads downhill ever so slightly, the road becomes a footpath. The forest closes in, and the long arms of elderberry and blackberry bushes narrow the path to a mere few feet. It is at the twisted maple, before the series of seeps and springs, that the light from the cabin is first visible (if, of course, one of us is already at home to greet the other). It beckons: dim, patient, promising.
On the nights that my eyes discern this little light, a smile customarily touches the corners of my lips. As forest gives way to field, the path rounds the corner past the garden and reaches the front door. Sometimes the squeak of snow announces my arrival, other times the headlamp on my forehead is a clear giveaway. Sometimes the powdered snow silences my footsteps – only to be heard by Mica, who announces my arrival with a welcoming bark.
I swing open the door, make use of the stump that is our doorstep, and enter. I am home at last.