Rain is in the forecast. Rivers and streams are set to ice jam. Floods are on the horizon. My nine hundred foot dirt driveway is a rutted slushy mud pit of hell.
Let’s face it; there is much to gripe about. Two weeks ago we were staring down a blizzard. That was followed up by a succession of smaller snowstorms that pummeled us over the next few days. When all was said and done we were left with over three and a half feet of snow on the ground. During this past week the thermometer rose above freezing and has stayed there with daytime highs reaching the lower 50’s. It’s a sloppy mess out there now. Rain is in the forecast. Rivers and streams are set to ice jam. Floods are on the horizon. My nine hundred foot dirt driveway is a rutted slushy mud pit of hell. Let’s face it, there is much to gripe about. Winter in Maine is always a psychological challenge. It’s why the hardiest of us adapt to it by getting out into it and embracing it. They’re on the lakes ice fishing, they’re on the trails snowmobiling, they are skiing down slopes, across fields and woods. Conditions sloppy? Yes, but there’s still tons of ice on those lakes, tons of snow in those woods, and piles of snow on those mountains. Me, I’m not much of an ice fisherman. I’ve dabbled the last few winters with no success, my auger a manual and rather exhausting device. I don’t ski. It’s too expensive and there’s too many people for my liking. Snowmobiling is also an expensive sport and something I’ve never pursued. For me the only viable option for getting out in in is strapping on a pair of cross country skis or snowshoes. I opt for the shoes as they can get me to the places I’ve always loved the most; the places no one else can get to—no snowmobiler, no skier, no intrepid hiker in normal winter boots. I like those deep secret magical spots nestled near little bends in streams far down deep in the woods. Ideally you should have to hike a good distance in, go through thick woods, where there are no prior tracks other than those of wildlife. The idea is to get to a place where there’s little chance of running across another human being. A place where you can sit for a spell and be truly one with nature. Sit, watch your breath in the winter air, listen to the wind in the trees (it’s different in winter) the gurgle of the stream’s water under the ice, snow falling off of high branches either making a sighing sound or a plopping one depending on the temperature in the air. That’s what I like the most. Sadly there’s been very little of that this winter for me.
Back sometime during this past Fall season I had to admit that a foot injury I had suffered over the summer was not ever going to heal if I didn’t stop doing some of the things that I loved doing for awhile. Chiefly this was hiking in the woods a lot. I really can’t overstate the negative impact this reality has had on my overall sense of well-being. Impeccable timing as always, this realization and decision had to happen in the midst of the most gut wrenching hair pulling time in modern day presidential elections.
It was perhaps overblown but it affected me deeply. It affected all of us. Less time alone in nature, less time being bathed in its calming grounding restorative powers, less time away from the rabble of people meant more time spent back at home in the office mired deep in the rabble. This meant more time on Facebook, more time on YouTube, NBC.com, Drudge Report. More mornings that begin with me filling my head with lies. More mornings with arguments, grumblings, gripes, and outrage. Then came the Holidays. And then, (because the American psyche just can’t seem to put this last election in the rearview) came a perhaps overblown inauguration, and as a new reality washed over the land, a massive paradigm shift, it was nothing but more outrage from every corner of this land. And I ashamedly found myself as much in the pitch and midst of it as anyone else. Let’s face it, there’s been so much to gripe about.
This just wasn’t sitting well with me. I had to get a break from it all. I had to get back down to the streamside, back to peace and tranquility, back to sanity. A little over a month ago I put my Facebook account into a deactivated state and have vowed to stay away from it for 100 days. A vow I’ve upheld without great difficulty. My intent was to get back out into the woods more and heal myself. My intent was to deliver back to the world more positivity via the RiverDevin site. It’s taken me a bit of an effort to get there. Much as I wanted to just jump back in as though it really were as easy as simply turning over a leaf it just didn’t happen that way. See, part of this is also mixed up with wanting to get back to writing more. I’m trying to make the two go hand in hand. Hence RiverDevin. And so perhaps because of the way I had to turn myself away from the woods my writing likewise suffered. A convenient excuse. Last fall I read through a wonderful manuscript of poetry from a bedridden cancer patient. At any rate when you fall off of the writing it’s not so easy to jump back in. Make no mistake, real writing is like running a marathon. If you aren’t doing the training you’re a fool to think you can just go out there and run a full 26 mile race. Oh how I waver from my own personal knowledge and counsel, oh how I readily play the fool. It’s been a massive struggle for me to just get this one friggin post up on RiverDevin. I’ve had well over a month to write something since deciding to get back on it. But alas here I am. I’ve spent a few weeks flexing the fingers. It’s slowly coming back.
Last Saturday I traveled with the girls down to Freeport for the big LL Bean Winter Savings Sale and scored an amazing pair of Atlas snowshoes.
On Sunday I went out to the nature trails around Jamies Pond in Hallowell/Manchester and tried the new snowshoes out. This was only the second winter woods walk I’d had all winter long and it truly did its job. It even came with the unintended extra adventure I often fall into. It was a warm day for February. After not hiking for so long I have fallen out of shape so the deep snow and long trail I chose was wearing me down rather fast. Midway through my hike I decided to cut the journey short and take the quick way back to my car. When I reached the trail junction that would take me back to my car I somehow missed it and managed to take a loop trail that added another mile and a half onto my journey. Typical. Needless to say I was completely wiped on Sunday night. Aside from the over all exhaustion I was experiencing throughout my whole body an old and painful demon also reared its ugly head—my foot injury. This pain can most easily and logically be attributed to a horribly narrow and stiff pair of snowsneakers that crowd, cramp, and wreak complete havoc on my feet. Great snowshoes. Horrible snowsneakers.
This week remained balmy and on Wednesday with the afternoon sun shining through my office window I couldn’t take it any longer and cut out of work at 4:00 so I could strap on the snowshoes and descend down into the woods behind the school. Idiot that I am I pretty much said fuck it to the foot. I got what I wanted. Peace in the woods. It came with a hefty price though. I’ve limped and hobbled through the past few mornings. It will come at just as a hefty price if I want to help solve the problem. A nice new pair of wide EE LL Bean snow sneakers would do the trick but they come with a price tag upwards of $110. Pain can hit you in so many areas.
I suppose it wont matter much longer if this melting keeps up. Pretty soon snowshoes aren’t going to do me any good in those woods whatsoever. Pretty soon I’ll have to slip the feet into muck boots to get where I want to go. Those too will have to come in a wide size. In fact, get this—this is the sad new reality—I have to replace ALL of my footgear with new wide sizes. Hiking boots, muck boots, snow boots, snow sneakers, casual sneakers, athletic sneakers, casual shoes, dress shoes, all of them. My relief is going to cost me. Let’s face it, there is always just so much to gripe about! Just don’t think I’m going to let it stop me.
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