BEFORE TUESDAY TEMPS ROSE to around 40 here in southern Minnesota, there was the cold. Brutal cold. Mornings of minus below zero. Strong winds making the outdoors feel even colder.
Late Sunday morning, when the temperature hovered in the 20s with a brisk wind, Randy and I followed the paved trail bordering the Cannon River in North Alexander Park. It’s a favorite Faribault walking path.
The river draws me here. I find waterways soothing, calming, quieting to the spirit, even when frozen.
I also appreciate how this particular path wends around trees and along the river. The curving trail invites a leisurely, poetic pace, a time for reflection, a time to slow down and delight in the natural world without distractions.
Little distracted us, except the trumpeting of two Trumpeter Swans gracefully flying high overhead as we exited the van to begin our walk. Absent were the usual crowds of waterfowl frequenting the river in Minnesota’s other seasons.
We encountered only one other person—a biker zooming on a fat tire bike.
It was the winter landscape which focused my attention. The whiteness of it all. The absence of color in a mostly grey and black-and-white world. Only the bold orange outlines on basketball rims and backboards jolted color into the scene. In the summer, young people cram these courts, dribbling and jumping and dunking and scoring points. Raucous play among youth, wonderful to witness.
On this February morning, summer lingers in memories of those pick-up basketball games, riverside picnics and following this trail in flip flops under leafy canopies of green.
Today the branches bare themselves to winter. Naked, exposed, vulnerable.
I notice in the snow, next to the imprint of a boot and a bike tire track, a lone oak leaf. In any other season, I might miss this. But not now. Not in the depth of winter.
I notice, too, finger drifts along trail’s edge. Creeping. Stretching. Wind-blown fingers of snow that may be perceived as threatening. Or artsy. I choose artsy.
Across the river, I see the Faribault Woolen Mill, weaver of wool (and wool blend) blankets, throws, scarves and much more since 1865. The mill is widely-admired, respected for its quality products. Craftsmanship at its finest. As Randy and I retrace our steps, this time leaning into a strong wind, I would welcome a locally-woven wool scarf wrapped around my neck for warmth.
Soon we reach the van, climb inside the wind-sheltered space and head toward the park exit. It is then Randy spots a large bird overhead, following the river. An eagle, we determine, based on wing span, flight and river route. It’s too high for our aging eyes to fully verify identity. But we’ve seen eagles here before and that is enough. Enough to end our Sunday morning winter walk with the wonderment we always feel in watching this majestic bird tracing the Cannon River.
TELL ME: If you live in a cold climate state, do you bundle up and head outdoors for recreational activities? Where do you go? What do you do?
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling