This will be my fifth winter walking in these woods and following the many deer tracks in the snow. It is such a joyful and P.L.A.Y.-ful activity to do on a cold winter’s day and it helps me to add variety to my daily walks by simply stepping alongside the hoofprints and seeing wherever the trail may take me.
On some outings I even discover coyote and turkey tracks right beside the deer tracks and I wonder at how this encounter looked or who came through first or last or if someone was being followed.
I’ve only actually seen the deer a few times up close as I approach the babbling brook and my sounds are muffled. More often I see them at a distance in the corn fields as I drive along the roadway out of town. Either way I am always thankful for knowing they are there in our fields and forest and also call this place home.
To give gratitude for the many years of awe and wonder this P.L.A.Y.-ful practice of tracking the white-tailed deer has provided I have created a new story series based on Thornton Burgess’ 1921 book The Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer. It is a great way to introduce your family, and get curious together, to another local creature living on the land.
The shadows grow long as the sun sets ever earlier and we near the end of November allowing for P.L.A.Y.-full moments like this one here in my neck-of-the-woods.
And even though I’ve passed through this patch of the forest a thousand times this moment was like catching an unexpected glimpse of myself in the mirror as I caught sight of my extended shadow.
My how tall I’ve grown I thought. I look a bit long in the legs with four of them no less! I could be called “stretch”!What if a critter walked up behind me, how tall would they be? What if it was the black bear I saw a few weeks ago only this time it was walking on two legs? Oh my – what silly fun!
This whimsical moment reminded me yet again of how everything changes, always. Mother Nature has made sure that no matter what there will always be change even if we do not readily see it.
That is how this year has been too. There are so many obvious changes that have taken place in 2020 and yet there are so many subtle ones as well.
This holiday week may be a bit quieter for many of us as we stay home in our own pods and save visiting family and friends for another year when it is safer to do so.
And perhaps this provides an unexpected opportunity for all of us to reflect on the more subtle changes, perhaps even unexpected delights, that have unfolded while our attention was elsewhere this year.
What little things have you overlooked that could only have taken place due to the larger changes throughout 2020?
Someday when masks, and pods, and the pandemic are over what little things will you miss that could only have taken place this year and will eventually disappear?
Once you’ve sat with these thoughts awhile I hope you and your cozy pod are able to take the time to delight in the simple and subtle changes outdoors this week and in the months to come.
Whether it is catching a glimpse of your own shadows in the setting sunlight, collecting cool crystals on a winter’s day, or creating your own spontaneous P.L.A.Y. projects may you all discover simple pleasures in your own neck-of-the-woods.
Truly nature is there for you, ready to P.L.A.Y., always.