It was a logy, sleepy afternoon, my last day off before returning to work after Christmas break. Maureen had lapsed into her recliner in the living room, having decided that watching football was more appealing than going snowshoeing with me and German shepherd Cushla.

I was disappointed. I’d wanted to get outside together and give the dog enough exercise that she might calm down for a few hours.

Contrary to my usual behavior, I paused and asked myself, well, what would make me feel better? The answer was obvious: going outside!

I took Rosie, the cockapoo, who will stay with me and not go next door to terrorize the neighbors, grabbed a walking stick and headed up the path to the woods next to our house.

There was a little sun, which was heartening, the wind was nearly calm and the air was cold but not biting. It felt good to walk along hearing the snow crunch under foot and to see Rosie trotting ahead, stopping to sniff everywhere. If I called her, she would come zooming back, then turn around and zoom off again on her doggie errands.

I had walked the path a few days earlier and seen patches of ice on some of the ledge outcroppings, so I stepped warily in those places, now lightly covered with snow.

After walking along a stone wall for a ways, past oak and maple and pine, we turned to walk up the neighboring blueberry barren, where the prints of another canine and human pair showed the way. It was less than an hour before sunset, but still quite light enough to see as we walked up the side of the barren.

I turned around to see sunset gathering on the horizon and snapped a picture to text to Maureen so she’d know what she had missed. Walking up a little farther, I turned again, this time for a photo of crepuscular rays, the beams of light that appear to radiate from clouds under the right conditions.

Calling Rosie, I headed uphill again so she’d come find me, and when she caught up, I turned back down the hill toward home.

Walking downhill across snow-covered ledge proved more challenging than going up, and I looked for vegetation to step on wherever I could. I gradually picked my way down the hill, trying to follow the footprints. At one point the human prints seemed to disappear, leaving only dog tracks. For a moment I was unsure of where I was in relation to the path, then with a jolt I recognized my surroundings. In the same instant, my feet went out from under me, and I landed with a thump on the ground.

I both was and was not surprised. It’s always a shock to suddenly find yourself on your back, especially outdoors, but I had half-expected I’d slip at some point along the way. I was lucky, though — I didn’t hit my head and landed in such a way that I didn’t even get bruised. I stood up on some nearby blueberry bushes, brushed myself off and made my way back to the trail.

Rosie looked back at me from farther down the path and as soon as I started to walk toward her, scampered out of sight.

I took care over the remaining areas of ledge, not wanting to sit down abruptly again, and was fine. It was lovely to be out as the day waned, to breathe the cold air and absorb the sense of life always present in nature.

I’m glad I chose to go out rather than stay inside and be disappointed.

Republican Journal Editor Sarah E. Reynolds is a longitme employee of Courier Publications.

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