After so many winters of travel, I am settling in for this one. I’ve always thought of winter as a quiet, reflective time, but I hadn’t noticed my travel rhythm until now: last year I went to New Zealand and Tasmania; in college I’d use winter breaks to travel to Utah where my cousins live; my junior year I spent break getting ready to travel abroad in Northern Ireland from the end of January through mid-April. Now, having returned from Alaska in November, I am moved into a post-and-beam house in Cambridge, Vermont, with a lease that runs until the end of April. Edge and Nobee (our dog) are with me, and we are sharing the house with my brother Jeff and a friend, Erik. All summer I spoke to Edge of Vermont and looked forward to being back here, but now I feel the travel bug jumping inside me again and I’m searching for a way to calm it. What did I learn from my travels last winter, though? Be still, be here, sink in.
I am taking lessons from the dog, learning the excitement to be had each time we go outside. Nobee loves the large field behind our house, where our neighbor’s draft horses sometimes plod, and she sprints through the snow, diving up and down like a dolphin in water all the way into the trees at the edge. From there we walk through a small opening in the fence that leads to another field, and we traipse along the boundary of the open space before ducking under a barbed wire fence back into the woods. Nobee leads, always a sprint in front of me, and I follow behind her, breathing in the snow-crisp air. Maple and beech trees stand together and give way to intermittent groupings of fir trees near streams that cut small valleys through the forest. Two weeks ago I heard a gun shot before we went out, and Nobee led me to the kill: blood-stained snow and the innards of a deer the hunters didn’t want. We visited the spot every day for a week, interrupting crows so Nobee could snack, until all that was left was a small part of the stomach, which had become a frozen disk.
We continue on through the forest until we reach the third field, which looks out over a large red barn, horses outside in a paddock, and a farmhouse on Lower Pleasant Valley road. Across the road the land rises up to a rounded peak called Cady Hill. Nobee does a lap around the field, and from here we turn around and head home, arriving back after an hour.
I discover more each time we go out: a bright orange fungus on a maple branch, a simple wooden bridge with inch-wide gaps across a stream, a large rock balanced on a bent tree to mark a trail; and each time it snows it is as if I am entering a new place, creating tracks that were not there before, and ducking under heavier snow-covered branches. I have struggled with my desires to travel, and to stay in one place and know it deeply, but perhaps here I am doing both. What is travel but movement across the land, and an opening up to a place one didn’t know before? Each walk is an exploration. Each interaction builds a deeper relationship. So I will keep learning and watching Nobee as she scoops up snow with her snout in the middle of a sprint, effortlessly happy to be here.