Winter Walks

There is something special about visiting the same nature spots repeatedly throughout each season, noticing their sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic changes at different times of the year. They are at once foreign and familiar, these city oases. The kids explore and imagine, the grown-ups point out and observe, marveling at how much enjoyment and learning occur with a simple stick, a pile of leaves, a random patch of ice.

On a cold December morning, a quiet, wooded walk with friends reminds me of how important it is to make these winter walks a priority, even when icy temperatures bid us to stay inside, even when the effort to dress three fidgety little ones in layers of winter gear seems insurmountable. These winter walks are worth it. Spotting crows swooping, winter berries growing, squirrels still at work collecting and burrowing--all of these things reveal nature's important work, even in the chill of winter. And they reveal our need to be a part of this important work, to watch it, to learn from it, to respect it.

In prior years, I over-scheduled our winters with activities and classes for the kids that were designed to get us through this long, gray season. But I realized over the past few winters that these activities too often came to dominate our days, consuming our time and distracting us from fully noticing, fully appreciating what this season teaches us. I am learning now to keep winter simple. I am learning to help us do less and learn more. I am learning to focus the added preparation and travel time of winter into outside endeavors that connect us, however briefly, with the natural world around us--even here in the city. I am learning to let this season lead us, spur us, rather than holding my breath until spring arrives. I am learning to cherish these frosty winter walks, making them the cornerstone of our winter days, the cornerstone of our winter learning.