Winter Walk

Andy said that I’m not allowed to contemplate the meaning of my life when I’m running a fever for the 2nd day in a row. Then he took the kids out in the heavy snow to do the hockey circuit. I was left wrapped in layers of fleece, under a dog, to die a slow and painful death.

It turned out that I have the kind of strep throat that only shows up on the 24 hour test, so even though we live 47 miles from a pharmacy that is closed on Sundays, it is a lucky thing that the doctor who cultured me in this small town is also a friend who tried to arrange for a nurse in the ER who happens to live up the Gunflint Trail…to get the antibiotics to me.

I’ve been reading a mystery by Nevada Barr about the wolves on Isle Royale. It’s fiction, but the Winter Study is not. Before I moved here, Isle Royale was the only place I’d ever heard a wolf pack howl. I read everything I could find that David Mech wrote when I was in college, and when the MN Zoo was new, I sat in the observation hut to watch them a couple times—but the way they paced there made me sad. I didn’t imagine that he wolf population would rally in such numbers, that someday I would have so much direct contact with them. We saw one yesterday and Shelby said—“Well, he is certainly playful.He was romping in the new snow just like Denali does. Usually—the adults are much more serious, slinky, and deliberate.

Shelby wrote a speech this week outlining her position on wolves as an endangered species. We have an estimated population of around 3000 wolves in Minnesota— mostly in the north woods. The DNR recently re-petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the wolves removed from the endangered species list, and the federal agency has until March to make a decision. It has been interesting to listen to her tangle with her own mind as she studies the complexities and public opinions that accompany species management issues.

By afternoon, the snow stopped, and since I hurt all over anyway, I took my fevered self outside for a walk. Actually it was a shuffle, a little bit delirious, but very pleasant too. Denali and I saw no wolves. Not cold, very still, and unbelievably quiet. I tried to take pictures, to capture how beautiful it was, but I found I wanted my photos to capture the stillness, the pure silence–and I couldn’t do that.

You can see that the lake is frozen in our bay, and we got enough snow to slush up the shore ice. Somehow we’ll figure a broomball rink, but it won’t be easy or early.

The air made me feel alive again, and I was grateful to be out in it, in a slow motion kind of way.

The hush of the woods was like walking through a prayer. I had been listening to Rabbi Jonathon Sacks. (I don’t believe it was just the fever!) I was in the deep snow, quiet gray standing in the presence of a deeper form of knowing–the Being at the heart of Being. The calm, the beauty of the world reminded me–although I was experiencing complete solitude, I was not alone in the universe. I will never be alone. Whoa. I will never be alone.

After awhile, Denali hadn’t nearly had her fill of bounding, but I spotted the house, and I could see the light above the couch, and it was calling my aching body back to my murder mystery. I am grateful that there are places in this world where complete silence exists. I’m grateful for the spirituality that wild places can inspire. And also I’m very grateful for the couch.

4 Responses

  1. Annette Cozzi says:

    Beautiful, beautiful,and beautiful….oh how blessed you are to live in & be able to find such silent solitude. Talk about good medicine….speedy recovery to you & thank you for sharing your solitude with someone that pines for the existence you live. Happy Thanksgiving to you & your northwoods family.

  2. Hey Annette,
    Thank you for that! Have we met?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hope you are feeling better Sue, as always, it is neat to see your pictures from way down here in Indiana. All that snow looks great. We are having 30 degree days here and snow isnt far away but we have only had some slight flurries so far. We now just have a thin sheet of ice on the ponds and lakes. I cant wait to drop my first line through the hole. I cant wait even more to bring our students up there in June. take care, stay warm, and enjoy the place you live.
    -Matt Hahn

  4. Anonymous says:

    The sound of peace in the winter one of the best sounds ever
    Ken F