An Equinox

By Anna McGreavy

It is on a cold February morning when I begin this article. The fire is stoked, and heat radiates off the cast iron woodstove into the living room. In my nest of comforters on the couch, I wait for the warmth to reach me. I alternate between sipping coffee and scribbling poetry in my notebook in an effort to relieve my busy mind of its ramblings. Mostly, I think about the changes taking place in my life: transitions at work, going back to school, a new boyfriend, a new housemate, maybe a new dog, writing my first Earth Notes column…

It is time to go for a walk outside.

I pull on my jacket, hat and over-boots and step onto the porch into the kinetic air. Protected by two layers of clothing, I feel well prepared for what will be a chillier, windier journey. Over the winter, I packed a snowshoe path from my front porch, into the White Pine grove at the edge of my property, and down the hill to Bradley Brook. As I step off the porch and begin down the trail, the grommets on the soles of my over-boots crunch into the snow, creating a rhythmic pattern of sound like that of a metronome. It is moving meditation all the way until I reach the brook, where I stop for a moment to watch the water. I inhale, feeling the cool winter air flow through my sinuses and deep into my lungs, purifying the cells inside. I exhale a smooth, cleansing breath, and then continue on, snaking through the stand of birch, beech, and maple trees.

In the woods, the wind is broken by the evenly spaced deciduous trunks, but when I emerge onto ITS 80 to follow the trail across the new snowmobile bridge, I can hear it whipping across the fields and flood plain in the distance. I have traveled this path through every season and in every kind of weather. Although the path itself remains a constant, the scenery and experiences are ever changing.

Eventually, the snowmobile trail parallels the Cold River. It is hedged with bare and knotted branches of Flowering Dogwoods and Speckled Alders. The twisted branches tremble slightly as they protect, but it is only the wind, the slow river, and I moving through this frozen landscape.

When I finally pass through a last barrier of White Birches into the open field, an instantaneous gust of wind hits, causing me to gasp. It is as though the air is bursting around me, while a deafening whir consumes my ears. Somehow, the cold air permeates my jacket and quickly seeps through the fibers of my under layers. It is as though the cool breeze is flowing into and around every cell in my body: cooling, cleansing, and refreshing me from the inside out. My eyes tear from the rush of cold. The yellow-white light of the sun approaching vernal equinox bleaches the blue sky and magnifies the glare of the snow. I squint to see the mountainous panorama across the glowing white expanse. The intensity and energy of the moment leaves me feeling renewed. I turn to let the breeze usher me home.

It has been less than two weeks since I started this article, and already so much has changed. I have taken a vacation from work, finished my application for school, fallen in love for the first time, decided to live alone, with no dog, and have finished my first Earth Notes column.

Today, I wear a t-shirt and jeans on my walk down the trail to Bradley Brook and onto ITS 80. My over-shoes make squishing sounds as they suction into the thawing earth. The dark brown riverbanks are exposed and barely contain the fast-moving, swollen brook, which sloshes around bends and rushes over downed trees and carefully crafted beaver dams. Instead of the frozen stillness, I hear the flapping of wings against the water as ducks take flight, and the honking of Canada geese overhead. The myriad of spring birdsong is returning. In the field, humid air vents up from the soggy grasses, steeped in snowmelt, while the dry milkweed stalks nourish the new growth emerging all around them.

From the invigorating winter wind, to the lazy awakening of spring, the world is perpetually changing. Sometimes the experience is harsh and rugged, sometimes peaceful and calm, but amidst it all there is balance, a point when everything is equal when no difference exists between the darkness of night and light of day.

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