Walking off the fever

I didn’t think I had cabin fever. I still don’t think I did. But boy, when the temp got up to near 40° yesterday, it didn’t take me long to persuade George to join Lady and me at Potawatomi State Park.

There was enough snow that we had to stay on the road–except for the nice flat expanse we found where Lady ran and romped and had a ball. As we walked back out on the road, we saw the sign: “Ski Trail. No pets. No hiking.” Oops.

The birds were still sparse, the ice shanties were still on the bay, Ice "shanties"and I still wore a hat and warm mittens. But the sun was shining at a different angle, and the air just smelled different. The road was mostly bare, but off-road the snow thick and wet, a sure sign of warming temps.

We weren’t alone. Like groundhogs emerging from their burrows, others had ventured into the park to celebrate the first break from winter’s cold in a long time. Some were holding hands like we were, some walking their dogs, one jogging, an old couple toddling along at their own senior pace. But all of us were outside, smiling at the sun and each other, nodding greetings and repeating, over and over, “spring is on its way!”

Today, same thing. I was up earlier than usual for an early Mass, and thanks to Daylight Savings Time, was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise when I got to church. Window to heavenAnd, unlike so much of what winter has been, the sun decided to stay out for the rest of the day. As the temps climbed–41° after lunch–we headed for the park again.

There was a time when I thought a walk in the state park was pretty tame. I suppose I still do. I think of the days when, to me, the only walk in the woods worth the effort was the kind where I headed cross-country on no trail at all, armed with a compass and a bottle of water–and a camera, of course. But those were the days when I lived in northeastern Minnesota, where most of the land is public; and those also were the days when my knees weren’t quite as gratzy as they are now.

So, I opt for the tamer walk, but even at the state park most of the components are there: lots of trees, tracks and trails of unseen critters, birdsong that will increase as the weather warms, silence that presses gently against my ears broken by bursts of wind movement in the trees, sighing and whispering to itself in the branches.

George and I walk side by side, stopping to steal a kiss now and then or take a photo, not talking much, each content with our own thoughts. Lady marches along beside us, setting the pace of this walk with her constant sniff stops. Now and then she heads into the woods after an intriguing scent, surprising herself by sinking into the wet snow. She does a quick u-turn and heads back to the easier maneuverability of the road.

A little red-breasted nuthatch flitters down to the strip of bare earth along the road, its movement like the flutter of a late-falling leaf. We stop quickly and it sits still, looking at us with tiny bright eyes, apparently unafraid. Then off it flies, only to return to a branchnuthatch just out of reach. I actually feel a bit guilty that I don’t have some shelled peanuts in my pocket. It loses interest quickly and flit away.

Our walk isn’t a long one, but it’s full of promise. Winter has been a long cold one, its single-digit temps–and below–keeping us inside for much of it. But it’s on the way out, losing its grip a bit more each day, trickling away under the persistent sun, soaking into the earth and making way for the green things we’re all so hungry for.

No, I don’t really think I had cabin fever. Not the full-blown, stir-crazy kind. But I think this shift in the weather came just in time. Now, each day will be pregnant with expectation, and I’ll once again be up and waiting to shoot the sunrise.

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About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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