A Warm Winter Day, by Shannon Connors

Today was the first warm day in what has felt like years. For weeks I had been refusing to leave my bed scared to face the frigid temperatures unless I had to. But today the sun had finally begun to shine, and the temperatures had risen to feel like an early spring so I decided to venture out. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed at least five other cars and a man in the park playing fetch with his dog, clearly I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the warm weather. I made my way into the woods and hiked about a mile in, to a set of boulders overlooking the pond. I had been here so many times before but I had never seen it look like this, the pond was frozen and the last remnants of snow laid over the fallen leaves on the trails. It slowly dawned on me how little I venture into the wilderness when the sun is not warm and bright, and today I saw a whole new side of the woods that I loved so much. Despite the cars in the parking lot, there was no one in sight. The trees were bare, the floor was covered with a thick coating of their leaves it appeared vacant, like everything had gone to sleep for the winter tucked into the blanket of snow. Regardless I settled myself in on the boulder wrapped in a towel to defend against the melting snow, and low and behold the woods proved me wrong.

A blue jay called loudly into the woods then another, and another all calling loudly warning each other, the guardians of the woods. It soon became clear to me why, as a Cooper’s hawk flew overhead soaring beautifully on the wind. I watched until he dipped behind the trees on the horizon far out of sight. Once I became aware of the life still present more and more began to appear before me. There seemed to be woodpeckers on every tree landing high up, barely visible to me and I instantly regretted not wearing my glasses. But as I stared at what I believed to be two woodpeckers which had landed on the tree I witnessed something I had never seen. One of the so-called woodpeckers leapt from the tree and soared dazzlingly to the next tree. As it went past I realized my mistake, I had just seen a flying squirrel for the first time in my life. I slowly realized that these woods were far from asleep and were teeming with wonders waiting to be seen if you were willing to deal with a little cold weather.

As I watched the woods come to life before me in what appeared to be a frozen, dead landscape I began to reflect on this week’s reading. Despite the cold winter and lack of foliage animals were still able to live here. They didn’t have to import their foods from somewhere that was still warm and green, they managed with the seasonal foods available. And if they could do it why couldn’t we. The problem isn’t a lack of food it’s the culture we have created which demands its every desire. When colonists settled this area centuries ago they couldn’t import fresh oranges from Florida or lettuce from California in the middle of the winter, they learned to eat the food they had, the food grown in the area just as these animals do. So why have we pulled away from this concept? Why have we created a culture which will sacrifice its own environment for selfish demands?

The book discusses the creation of highways as a major factor in the development of this food culture, and I can’t help but stare at this beautiful landscape before me and imagine back when this was the majority of the landscape, when we couldn’t ship our food thousands of miles and it wasn’t packed with preservatives to make the journey. But a time when we were at peace with nature rather than battling it and our food was natural and healthy and local. With all of these thoughts rattling in my head I decided to leave the boulders and begin my hike home. This trip has shown me two important things which I take home with me today, one the true disconnect that we have with nature in its true form, and the unnaturalness of our current food system. I will continue to return to these boulders for the weeks to come and hopefully, I can remedy at least one of these problems for myself.

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