The first shock of frost on the grass this morning and in the sunrise, contrails suggesting warmer destinations. But I’m happy to be right here walking in this lightly iced air, watching my breath, proof that I am, indeed, here.
A faint scrunch underfoot, so small I have to concentrate to hear it. And then a bare patch where the earth is slick and a different kind of attention is necessary until, further along still, where the leaves are thick on the ground and the light filters through and there’s no ice, only a scent of hibernation, transformation, where leaves are leaving as leaves, changing not only colour but molecules, breaking down with a view to reappearing as loam—possibly as early as Spring—that’s where I let my guard down, on this decomposing carpet where the soles of my moderately priced runners feel secure.
There are places where the tall grass has bent over as if there’s no point in arguing, the cold mornings have won; it acquiesces, prepares to serve as a nest or bed for whoever or whatever would care to nest or bed there.
I walk down a slope toward the creek, once more careful, it’s muddy and slippery, warmer here, protected from wind, the sound of water like a conversation. I take off my red and white maple leaf mittens and do a quick standing salutation to the sun. This, before I notice a dog and walker a few metres away. I say good morning and expect a strange look but there’s only a glimmer of curiosity followed by an open, friendly smile.
I walk past the Italian man’s garden that faces the park, all tidy and empty, unlike mine, which still sports all manner of herbs and dandelions, still food. But we’re different styles, he and I. He grows vast quantities to preserve: tomatoes, beans, peppers, zucchini, eggplant. I grow the same things but mostly just enough to eat during the season, a few extra jars of this or that. I stop and talk to him sometimes. He invites me to take tomatoes. I never do. I tell him I grow my own and he smiles. He knows I’m an amateur and he’s right. Still, my garlic is not to be sniffed at.
On the way home I meet a neighbour who walks with a different purpose. Whereas I dress in babushka and an anorak, she’s got glow in the dark stripes and a proper walking toque. She stops and tells me to hang on a minute while she tries to turn off her device, grumbles that it’s finicky; I wait while she fiddles with the dial, eventually settling on turning it down because off isn’t working. Then she invites me to a xmas thing at her house. I promise to check the calendar.
Back through the creek I climb small hills, follow the narrow shoreline and wonder if the campers are down there again this year with their plywood lean-to and other comforts of home. They’re not, just bits of litter. I will never understand the mentality of letting something fall from your hand onto the ground…
The possibility of running into the campers changes my mood. I decide to go back up top where it’s open and then I catch a glimpse of something dark and big behind me.
There are coyotes in the ravine, I sometimes hear them at night. But it’s not them I worry about. I remember a conversation I had with my stepdaughter when she was very young, whether it would be scary to sleep in a cemetery all night. I said I wouldn’t be afraid as long as I could be guaranteed no people would show up.
Especially live ones.
I still feel the same way.
I turn around.
I let out a frosty breath and head home.