Ice skimmed down the trees, touching them here and there. When the sun came out, it caught and glinted. It’s hard to describe the light on birch bark and the tips of the twigs, but I had to stop on the hill … for the shine.
We were in Hopkins Forest, just starting on the first loop of trail. The ground crunched with cold, and we cracked through the powder of snow and the crust of ice underneath. It gave traction enough to climb, and walking up through the sugarbush warmed me.
It was five degrees that afternoon, but in the woods, in the sun and the stillness, it felt warm enough. My friend and I were both well bundled in layers. We were talking about books, how magic systems work in fantasy novels, and how to write an article that can strengthen people who agree and reach people who don’t …
And then the path would lift and turn, and we’d fall silent. Young hemlocks held snow in their branches. Hoar frost coiled filaments taller than I’d ever seen before. A hawk glided backlit.
It was only toward the end, as we walked back down in the shade, that I began to feel the cold at all, and not as a chill but as a touch of tiredness. I’d forgotten what it’s like, when you’re stiff and breathless, and you come inside. You cup a mug of peppermint hot chocolate in your hands and start to thaw. And the warmth slowly rises.