Winter Wanderings

I am saddened and also slightly embarrassed to admit that only on rare occasions have I been known to venture out into the woods (or wild spaces in general) during the winter months. I am hereditarily ill-equipped for the cold, but I feel that every year as the season drags on I become hardier and less immune to cold fingers and toes. By the time I actually feel like spending a reasonable amount of time outdoors fattened by layers upon layers of tacky fleece and wool it always seems that it’s spring before I know it and the sun’s rays are thawing and drying out the cold, damp earth. All things considered I am very glad that I was able to get out and document my experience wandering through a (somewhat) pristine winter landscape amid big, fluffy chunks of falling snow.

The very end of Sassafras Point, looking northwest. Despite our tendancy to assume that large expanses of water are deep, Coote's Paradise is comparitively shallow and in cold winters can nearly freeze solid.

The very end of Sassafras Point, looking northwest. Despite our tendancy to assume that large expanses of water are deep, Coote’s Paradise is comparitively shallow and in cold winters can nearly freeze solid.

The southern shore of Coote’s Paradise is a favorite area of mine to explore, interpret and forage, as it is one of the few sections of coastline near Hamilton and Burlington that hasn’t been altered to the extent that it has along the edge of Lake Ontario itself (Coote’s Paradise is a freshwater estuary which empties out into the lake) to the point where it is no long recognizable as a ‘natural’ landscape. As the snow was gently descending from the infinite with no discernible breeze to disturb it the islands and peninsulas which adorn the south shore appeared shrouded in secrecy, with the falling snow obscuring the horizon as the sky and frozen lake assumed the same shade and texture.

The southwestern tip of Cockpit Island, a small, narrow sandbar located just northeast of Sassafras Point. In dry years, a narrow silty ridge connects the island to the end of the point.

The southwestern tip of Cockpit Island, a small, narrow sandbar located just northeast of Sassafras Point. In dry years, a narrow silty ridge connects the island to the end of the point.

I highly recommend experiencing the serenity and solemness entirely unique to winter landscapes, especially if it happens to be snowing while you are outside amongst the hills, water and trees. Without the charismatic color that is flaunted by plants during their frenzied activity throughout the growing season, winter cultivates a very different but equally beautiful and enriching scene in the form of texture and contrast between snow, ice, trunks, limbs, soil and rock. Death and decay are momentarily put on hold and enveloped in a layer of soft, opaque purity that disregards the mistakes and unpleasantness of the past, if only for a time. This type of environment evokes a certain type of sacredness, one of isolation and stillness which despite the subzero temperatures warms the soul and cleanses the spirit. I publicly pledge to you all that I shall never let such opportunities of oneness allow themselves to pass by, and I hope that you consider making this a promise to yourself as well.

Looking east along the edge of an oak savnnah habitat on the mainland as it abrubtly ends at the shore of Coote's Paradise.

Looking east along the edge of an oak savnnah habitat on the mainland as it abrubtly ends at the shore of Coote’s Paradise.

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