On the morning after the first snow, I went walking. It was a teaser snow, wet and early and beautiful enough that one would not expect it to cause trouble. It would be brief, this opportunity, because at 5280 and above we have less distance between us and the sun and there are lots and lots of brilliant sunny days. Snow melts quickly early and late in the season. A teaser snow, before winter has truly arrived and before fall has truly departed, can be magical. Perfect for taking photographs. But often brief.
I was the only one walking in the winter garden that morning. It was early, a weekday, and I was alone on the path. It was already warming and the sun was getting higher and the light changing quickly. In an hour’s time, I had walked the perimeter of the gardens, walked along the river, saw some mallard ducks and a coyote. I walked among trees that were already dripping melting snow and gazed up through pines at a blue-blue sky that is signature in these parts. I was walking slowly and carefully with my eye searching for the best way to capture this change of season.
When I rounded the last bend to go back to the parking lot, I spied an old woman. She was wrapped in a frayed brown coat and her hair was encased in a grey ski cap and she had on blue and green polka dot rubber boots. She sat on a bench next to what in summer is a blooming water garden and she was talking to someone I couldn’t see. The bench on which she sat was closest to the bridge that crosses to a small island, at a spot known as Monet’s View. In summer, this is a favorite place for couples to stand if they choose to marry in the garden.
She seemed to be talking to someone across the water. As I passed, she turned to me and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“So very pretty,” I replied, and stopped to talk.
I saw her creased face was smiling big, joyfully. Her eyes were pale blue, tired, but still bright.
“I am here to thank Mother Nature,” she said.
“Mother Nature did a great job this morning, didn’t she?” I replied.
“You should thank her too,” she said as she pointed across the water.
I looked in the direction she pointed. I realized that the old woman had talked all that time to a statue that was partly covered with wet snow. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw there were three rabbits sitting at her feet. Three small rabbits, ears tucked under, not a foot from her feet.
She turned away then and said nothing more. I continued on my way but thought about her as I drove off and went about my day. I wondered why I hadn’t taken a picture of her and the rabbits. I wondered how long she stood there talking to the statue before I arrived. I remembered how peaceful and happy and warm and content she looked.
It was a rather odd encounter on the morning after the magical first snow. But I knew that at some level, she spoke the truth. It was undeniably beautiful.
Tonight another storm approaches. The second in a week’s time and after a high of 70 degrees yesterday. Mother Nature is teasing us again.