Little Snowshoes

Like it or not, winter has set in for the duration. I hope you do like it, since it will be here for at least another two months!  There are two great things to do in winter when you live in the forest.  One is to cozy up by the fire to read, and the other is to get out and enjoy the snow.  This month I was reading over some notes I made more than 20 years ago when my daughter was young.  Decades later and living in Ottawa, she still loves to be out in the snow every chance she gets.  Here is a story of how she came to love winter:

Having a three-year-old around sure makes it easier to enjoy the snow. That is, after a 10-minute fight to get her snowsuit on. Our daughter absolutely loves the outdoors. The deeper the snow, the better!

Last year we bought the smallest pair of snowshoes in the store for her. At two, she could only wear one at a time, because they were bigger than she was. It was easy to see where she had walked; her tracks in the snow were strange indeed. But she had fun, and that’s what counts.

This year she is bigger than the ’shoes. She wears both at the same time and walks around as comfortably as a duck in sand. Her first couple of times out were just around the yard before the snow got very deep. She concentrated very hard, watching each snowshoe move forward, making sure she didn’t step on the other one.

Our first big snowshoe expedition was on the lake. Walking is easy because there are no hills to go up or down. Once we got to the shore on the far side, though, she had second thoughts about continuing. From her viewpoint of 37 inches, the shoreline hill looked impassable. But with a lot of encouragement from me and a helping hand, she was soon following my tracks through the woods.

Downhills looked even scarier than the ups to our daughter. She sat to slide down the first hill (one foot drop over three feet running). On the next hill I gave her a hand again. That was all she needed to gain confidence. By the time our trail curved around toward home again, she was in the lead. Now I followed in her tracks.

For little kids, wintertime is pure joy. Bundled up in layer upon layer of warm clothing, they throw themselves into the snow. They run, jump, roll, and crawl through the stuff. And when they get tired, they just lay down were they are for a two-minute rest. The really nice thing about a kid’s joy of winter is that it is contagious.

I followed our daughter home as we snowshoed across the lake. The cabin was only a hundred yards away from where we came out of the woods. I asked her if she wanted to go home, or if she would like to snowshoe for a while longer. She opted to go home. So I said, “OK, I’ll keep following you.”

She walked happily along, looking back now and then to be sure I was following her tracks. Two minutes later, we were further from the cabin than before. I asked if she knew which way was home, to which she replied, “Yes, it’s this way,” pointing directly opposite the cabin.

I said, “But I can see our cabin right over there!”  To which she replied, “Yes, but the trail goes this way.” And indeed it did. The ‘trail’ went this way and that, and around again but not quite. Whenever we came close to crossing our own trail, she turned again.

I think as adults, we too often take the shortest distance between any two points. We miss out on the freedom of making our own way. Our children have a lot to teach us about the joy of just being outside.

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