Confession: I was starting to stress. It was a busy week, I had a ton of stuff to do and the weather wasn’t helping. Mid-January and there was a few inches of snow on the ground — not enough to snowshoe or cross country ski but too much for a normal walk in the woods. Two months into my #hike52 project and stress about when and where I could on a trail for Week 8 started to creep into my mentality.
But wait. This is exactly one of the reasons I made this commitment to get out in the woods once a week for a year. Because of the struggle with time and the perception of busyness. I knew in my heart that being on a trail, any trail, was a happy place for me and part of this project is making the things which make me happy a priority. Plus I knew that taking this time would make me more productive and refresh me emotionally and mentally. So I put the thought of “stress” away (because in this case it was completely a self-created stress) threw on my winter boots and took off for Tifft Nature Preserve.
I had been to Tifft a few times but it’s been a few years. And I’ve never gone in winter. So this would be different.
The trails aren’t very long but are well-marked and make it easy to wander around the preserve. As I approached the trailhead three chickadees started singing and flying by my head. Literally, one almost dive-bombed my head. The actually explanation: The birds are used to humans who often have handfuls of food for them and they assumed I was like the rest of the humans. (Sadly for them I am not.) My explanation: The birds were greeting me to the trail and were approving and celebrating my decision to come to the trail this morning. And so I smiled broadly, walked onto the trail and turned left.
I took some deep breaths and marveled at the beauty of the snow-dusted trees and bushes. I was lost in my own breath when two deer startled me. They were to the left of me on the trail, nibbling away. No surprise. There are plenty of deer in Western New York and this sanctuary is probably one of their favorite places to escape the problems of cars and hunters. Still, I was a bit awed by their nonchalant attitude toward my intrusion. Whenever I’ve come across deer during my training runs, they jet off pretty fast. These were so calm. I started to check my memory bank for stories of people being ambushed by deer. Nope. Couldn’t think of any. But I wanted to give the deer privacy so I turned down a different trail.
The quiet of the woods was peaceful. The crunching snow and the black and whiteness of the landscape created a calming atmosphere for my soul. I walked briskly in spots, more carefully in others. There was no need to rush.
I took a trail that circled the ponds and noticed a beautiful bird on the stalk of the phragmites. He had a burst of red on his head. I approached slowly then stopped when I saw a woman with a camera. I paused to watch the bird and respect my fellow woods walker/nature photographer. When the bird flew away I asked what it was — a downy woodpecker, she said.We chatted softly for a few minutes and she alerted me to more deer around the corner.
Sure enough, two deer were on my right. Shortly after that I passed a field with about a dozen deer grazing on the grass. One of them was close to the path and stared at me. I wanted to stop but the staring deer seemed very protective, so I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and trie to snap some photos as I walked by. Once I passed the group, I turned back to look — the staring deer was still looking at me, having moved only its head to track my path.
Near the ponds I stopped to take a photo of the landscape. At first I tried to crop out the sight in the distance — old grain elevators and leftover industrial buildings. But the more I looked, the more I saw beauty in the combination of nature and industry. Certainly there are places which need to be kept free from industrial and commercial development. We need wild places for an entire host of reasons, many of which I’m sure I will write about as the #hike52 journey continues, but there is also a lesson to be learned by looking at the grain elevators behind the nature preserve.
There is beauty in the mix of industry and nature — two things which don’t necessarily go together. So often in my life I try to compartmentalize things. This is work. This is play. This is family. At times that is good and necessary. But it’s not necessary all the time and some of the time, well, it’s just impossible. Life because one big mishmash mess. So what if I just let it be that way? What if I let the industrial buildings and the nature preserve share space? What if I saw the beauty in those times when my life is mismatched? What might I see then?
Hike 52 Project
Date: Jan. 22
Location: Tifft Nature Preserve
Total distance: 2.15. Miles
Election: 8 feet
Duration: 1 h our 4 minutes
Weather: 30s. Calm. Cloudy.
Hiked with: Solo