A walk in the winter woods

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

The old adage says “curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” Read the poem “Curiosity” by Alastair Reid for an interesting perspective. “Curiosity will not cause us to die -/ only lack of it will.” A good poem to read in light of current events.

We walk in the woods in all seasons. Each one has its own particular beauty. Usually our walks are solitary and personal — a time to think and reflect, even talk to God.

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We love the woods in winter because you can see deeper into its landscape; the view is no longer obstructed by the leaves. Everything is different after the leaves are on the ground. The smells, the textures, the light, the ability to hear sounds, the quality of the air are all enhanced.

We had the great pleasure to walk in the woods recently at the Great Dismal Swamp with a group of folks from our Master Naturalist chapter. They all brought their own special talents and curiosity with us on the walk. So we got to see the winter woods from a multitude of different eyes — trained eyes that were willing and able to share their knowledge of their particular interest in nature.

Our excuse for being there was to look at mistletoe, lichen and various fungi. But curiosity is a hard thing to keep under control. We diverted as we often do on these walks. There were more questions than answers. We got distracted by evidence of recent bear activity, and the beauty of the colors, textures and designs on shelf fungi.

We got distracted by birds and bird calls, plant identification and liverworts (that’s another article altogether). We had conversations about the health benefits of forest bathing while breathing in the restorative properties of the fresh air as we listened to water gurgling through a stream. We got carried away. Mostly, we got carried away by the reason most of us go into the woods in the first place, which is to get carried away from the daily stresses of our everyday lives.

Many folks ask us how we keep coming up with topics for our articles after writing so many. It is certainly not a function of how much we know — quite the opposite. We are reminded every time we go out into nature, then come home and do a little research, of how very little we do know. We are always inspired by the question, “What is that?” and the how and why of it all.

We also got carried away with ourselves, laughing, telling adventure stories about stuff that happened along a trail, animal sightings, weird plant sightings, weird people sightings and other strange encounters. There is always wonderful fellowship when we are out as a group. It was basically a love fest of the mutual admiration society.

The Virginia Master Naturalists are accepting applications for new members now through January. Log on to our website at vmnhistoricsouthside.org — if you’re curious.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.