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Walking Through the Seasons

By Alta Campbell
April 1996

I remember reading Wordsworth and Frost years ago in college and yearning for a lifestyle in which I could take long, contemplative walks over fields, through woods, and along clear streams. Even then I could feel the exhilaration of coming upon a “host of golden daffodils” or some similar splash of unexpected glory.

But life after college led me to cities, where there were neither fields nor time for country walks, and it was many years before I was able to live out my fantasy. At last I can. The farm to which I recently moved has fields and, best of all, a wide creek in a wooded canyon, where clear water winds its way around large rocks. It’s a wonderful place to walk through the seasons.

I discovered the creek first in winter. Wandering along its banks, I came upon what has since become my own special nook — a large, flat rock beside a little waterfall, with cliffs rising up sharply behind and the woods surrounding it, sealing off all noise but the splash of water and the wind in the trees. I go there to recenter myself.

The best winter walks are during snowstorms. Ambling across the fields, I can see nothing but a blurred landscape of white blending to shades of gray. Lines of trees in the distance become the merest suggestion of trees — hazy, gray silhouettes on the horizon, like an Impressionist painting. I hear geese overhead, but the dense snow makes them invisible.

As I head into the woods and down the hill to the stream, only the music of the water below breaks the soft silence. Everything is decorated. Snow lies in little peaked rows along the tree branches and forms hats on the leaf clusters of the laurel. The upright seed pods of the paulownia trees become snow ice cream cones. Mounds of white round and soften the rocks in the stream, where water gurgles through ice, forming crystalline sculptures.

In spring the woods come to life. Mosses on the creek banks brighten into brilliant green beds holding small, pink spring beauties. The ethereal white blossoms of the dogwood float gracefully along the creek. Trees erupt in myriad shades of soft green, one after the other so there is something new to see every day.

Then the laurel blooms, and the greens grow darker and denser as summer closes in the forest, filling it with secret, quiet places. I fight through thick growth along the creek to reach my rock. The water slows down, forming peaceful pools.

Fall brings startlingly brilliant hues, especially late in the day when the sun slants shafts of gold through the woods and glints off the water. I stand beside the creek and look up through the branches into the sunlight, letting it warm me, and think how important it is to walk in nature. It helps me feel the essence of things, so I am not so affected by all those forces in our world that try to pull me too fast in too many directions. In nature I grow calm and clear again.