The Season of Sticks
The brown season is upon us here in central Wisconsin. Well, it’s nearly brown, mostly brown, primarily brown. Yes, there’s some snow, some ostracized bits of white clinging to the edges of the roads and hugging the walking trails. These miniature mountainous ranges of white are all that is left to remind us of this season’s occasional short snowfalls. Snow that had not been pushed or plowed into serpentine heaps has long since receded into the earth. Occasionally hidden in the shadows of the forest or tucked at the foot of the tall prairie grass, a small smattering of snow remains, just enough to make anyone who complains of having “no snow” a liar.
We cannot ski across country. The snowshoes, now free of storage dust, still languish on the wall. It’s the season of “Sticks” as some people call it. There’s nothing to do and nothing to see. Who wants to hike in the cold, damp, dark and cloudy days of January? Especially if those cold, damp, dark days have persisted since as far back as November! If it’s not going to be summer, then at least the sky can be blue, the ground can be white, the air can be bracing and the skiers can be racing. Anything else, is just, “Ugh!”.
Yesterday, for the first time this season, the ice finally covered my local lake from one frozen shoreline to the other. It probably won’t last long enough for the anxious ice fisherman to get their fix though, the temperatures of the next few days will again be hovering in the low 40s. The new ice will simply tease them for a moment before retreating once again. Still, what ice is left clinging to the banks is now thick enough and extends far enough to make launching a kayak nearly impossible as well. The tease goes both ways during this cold brown season.
Until something breaks.. Until the winter snows finally cover the landscape or the spring flowers push through the muddy ground, I will hike. If you are the type that simply must be outdoors, you must do something after all. I could downhill ski on slopes of artificial snow framed between stripes of brown forest, but that’s just not for me. Not now anyway. I prefer my winters full on and natural. Something about skiing past dry brown forests just steals the joy. My bike still hangs at the ready, but the bike trails aren’t cooperative and the roads, well, there’s no joy in those. No, I’d rather just slip on my old boots and head off into the brown, taking it for what it is.
Just walking feels most natural in this brown world and honestly there are days when I could imagine no better experience. I just need to have woken in the right state of mind. A day when hot tea & milk taste better than coffee. The season of sticks is a season of subtleties strewn within sharp contrasts under watercolor skies. It’s light and shadow. It’s reflections on ice and coyotes sashaying over open fields. It’s bitching crows, spiraling hawks, cracking branches under foot and scurrying squirrels heard but seldom seen. It’s melancholy given substance. Fascinating when you think about it.
Still, a bit of snow would be nice. I mean, if we must have winter at all.