By Emma Roth
For each season of the year, there is an activity that embodies how that season makes me feel. Something small that happens naturally every year. In the spring, I open my window and take a deep breath, smelling that distinctive spring smell. In the summer, I walk into the refreshing shade of a tree after being out in the sun. In the fall, it’s the satisfying crunch of stepping on a good, crispy leaf. In the winter, I stand outside on a cold night, completely still.
I love the cold. Now, this does not mean I love being cold. In fact, I rather dislike being cold. But I do love the cold and this cold time of year. There is no better feeling than being cozied up under some warm blankets knowing the cold air is just outside my window. It is equally enjoyable to wrap myself up in a truly insane number of layers to go outside and feel the cold on my face while the rest of me is nice and warm.
Everything seems more peaceful on a still winter night or crisp morning. Now, this peace does not always last. As I work in schools, the excited energy of the kids builds throughout the month of December. In February and March, our teaching schedule is jam packed and full-steam ahead making days energizing and busy. But in the winter, it is much easier for me to return to a peaceful state, even after an energetic day.
It’s in that moment, standing completely still in the cold night air, that winter truly feels peaceful. There is really something magical about that deep silence that comes on a winter night. Most animals are hunkered down and there are no leaves rustling overhead. The most peaceful moments of my life were spent on a cold night with clear skies, the Milkyway shining above me, and not even the hint of a whisper of wind. Total, absolute, silence.
Of course, these peaceful moments are just that: moments. After standing still in the cold air, it doesn’t take long before I begin to shiver and make my way back to the warm indoors. While it may not last long, those few moments are always full of thoughts. Not thoughts of responsibilities or stresses, but wonderings and musings. I think about what all the animals are doing, imagining a hawk with its feathers fluffed up sleeping high in a tree, or a turtle that has nestled down in to the mud at the bottom of a frozen pond. I think of the trees around me, their leaves gone as they stand there, waiting for spring to return.
These creatures don’t feel responsibilities or a pressure to move and change in those moments. They are simply waiting. Whether they are only waiting for day to break, like the hawk, or waiting for spring, like the turtle and tree, they are content to be in the present, just waiting. Sure, when the sun rises or spring comes, these creatures will have to go out, find food, grow leaves, and do everything they need to survive. But are they worried about that now? No; they are simply waiting.
I’ve tried to allow myself to do this every once in a while, letting myself just be and put aside all worries and thoughts of things that need to be done, but it’s so hard. Like everyone, I have responsibilities, both professionally and personally, that feel ever-present. It’s hard to let myself just forget these things, even for a moment. The closest I’ve come to doing this is in the dead silence of a winter night. Standing in the cold and dark, my brain knows it’s a temporary state. It knows that after only a few minutes the cold will seep into me and bring me back to reality and to find my way inside. The presence of this natural alarm let’s my mind relax. I can set aside my responsibilities and just let my mind wander. The peace of winter is able to wash over me, if only for a few moments.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.
Emma Roth is a Nature Educator at Audubon Community Nature Center.