The temperature has risen to above freezing but there is a deep layer of snow on the ground. We walk down to the church and put on snowshoes in the lee of that lovely old house of worship.
The two church camps by the shore sit idle, exhausted perhaps, after the fanfare of summer. Several trees along the path to the beach have companionably toppled over onto their neighbors and are coming to terms with the fact that their growing years are over. All have been trimmed of lower branches to protect faces and eyes of carefree impulsive children, and these stark twigless woods remind me of the movie Dr. Zhivago, but of course those Russian trees were birch.
Piles of seeds (squirrel middens) build up by the dark trunk of an old cone-laden white spruce. By way of demonstration, an overhead squirrel flings a few seeds our way and scolds us mightily for intruding on his territory.
Today the sea is gray and uninviting, all slush and ice cakes blown over from the other side. When the wind changes to the north later today, the ice will head back to Nova Scotia. No one will be skiing on the Strait any time soon. It’s hard to remember that at one time the Island’s mail used to come and go in small boats across that cold dark body of water all winter long.
We make our way along the capes, admiring the new growth of last-year’s bayberry bushes glowing a rich orange in the shadowless afternoon light. Golden beech leaves, still clinging to tiny branches, flutter loosely in any breath of wind. As we reach the cottage subdivision we stop and look about. All the dreams these cottages represent! Dreams of tranquility, friendship, fresh air, storms, lightning, high seas… and no one ever leaves without some dream having come true.
We love our little forest, our shore, and would miss it desperately should it disappear. It’s hard to imagine how life has changed for Australians in the path of bushfires. We’ve had fires on the Island that have decimated whole areas—dead trees can still be seen around Mt. Stewart, for example—but continental destruction is something different. It seems we all have personal connections to someone in Australia, whether it be a brother or a son or a son-in-law’s parents.
Then too, in the current climate of military carelessness and tragedy that has touched so many, there is the imagined possibility of woods and squirrels and human lives being destroyed through one simple act of armed conflict. How would we ever recover?
We try not to take this place for granted, but sometimes we just plow along with our minds in the clouds and don’t even notice our surroundings. There’s no need to feel guilty about it, though, just thankful. This beauty is a luxury given to us here and now. We’re blessed, we’re outdoors, and it’s supposed to snow again tomorrow.