It was a quiet woods. An earthen path thawed just enough on a February afternoon for a near silent hike.
Waves of fog eased in off the adjacent Big Stone Lake, precipitation rising from an uncharacteristic deep winter thaw. Dampness was prevalent all around. Rain had fallen most of the morning, and now in the afternoon, an occasional drip gravitated from limbs and branches overhead.
This shrouding by fog gave the oaken savanna a sense of mystery. At times the path through the wood was visible for a few hundred yards. Sometimes, much, much less. About as far as I could heave a stone.
You would hope for a sighting of a whitetail deer, and they’re here. Hoof prints sunk fresh in the newly thawed mud in the pathway. Mature prints of a winter herd. Where their trails crossed the cleared path for humans, the muddy evidence seemed fresh and raw. Used. Yet, there was no sightings.
Indeed, for most of the walk there was an eerie silence. Initially the caws of a couple of distant crows were heard. But before walking down the hill past the picnic tables where my friend, Lee Kanten, and I had sat about this time a year ago when I was in the start of healing from an unexpected end to a marriage. On that February afternoon, at about the same time of day, we had taken the sun-warmed path from the opposite end of the park. Deeper into the woods on this February afternoon, the silence enveloped you as did the fog.
About halfway along the route through this oaken savanna of Bonanza is a brook, one that seemingly never freezes. It is fed by a series of springs further up the deep ravine. The brook was my goal, and announced itself long before I came over the last ridge before entering the ravine. Yes, the wood was this quiet. And the announcement was not unlike when you can hear the lapping waves of an ocean shore. A sweet sound, of ripples cascading over small rocky steps and fallen timbers, relentlessly heading for the lake.
Perhaps I’m not alone in coming to a stop here. A small raft-like bridge crosses the brook, one that is weathered and is host to a small carpet of lichen. When it isn’t so wet I like sitting on the edge of the bridge, my feet dangling just above the moving waters, just to listen to the lyrical babbling of the brook. I fully expected the recent thaw to have brought a higher rush of water down through the ravine, a torrent, perhaps, and was somewhat surprised to find what a friend calls “the usual.”
Sometimes in the midst of a winter day, if the snow isn’t too deep, I like coming here just to see and hear the moving water of the brook, and perhaps this was my underlying and unspoken reasonings on this afternoon. To get here you must traverse a bit of hilly country and wind your way through a vast bed of buckhorn sumac. On this day most of the bobs had been tended to by the deer and birds, though you could still see a reddish brightness of those bulbous seed heads peeking through the foggy grayness. A welcomed sighting of color fighting through this dense grayness.
Whether one can fully feel sated of the sounds of the brook, there is a sense of comfort that all of this will be here another time, and the walk back to the car brought new sightings along the timbered path. New photographic poetry, if you will. A foggy woods is much different for the senses than a clear woods, and you find yourself stopping now and then for the beauty of a deep breath. Yoga moments in the woods of nature.
Then you reach the car, and lay the camera in the seat before leaning against the chassis for a last appreciative moment. Just then a prairie wind arose, and within a breath of a moment the fog blew away and the woods cleared … along with the mysteries of an afternoon in a foggy wood.