Tag Archives: New Year’s Day

A Short, Cold Walk in the Woods


Shadows of trees

I’m out of the yard, headed down to Dry Creek. I like the shadows on the snowy bit of grass.

After the annual New Year’s Day brunch at my sister’s house, I came home with my wife, daughter and grandson. It was nap time.

I woke up around 3, and worked for a while in the office, but when I looked out the window, a cold squirrel who was huddled in the tulip tree caught my eye. Right—I was going to fill the bird feeders this afternoon. It’s pushing 4, but at minus 4 degrees it’s as warm as it will get today—so I put on boots, coat, hat and mittens. And I also took my Nikon.

On the way around the house, I spotted a flock of small brown birds hanging out in a honeysuckle bush, as if waiting for me. “Where have you been?” I was inside where it is warm, dinosaur friends. Food is on the way.

I fumbled with the birdseed and feeders, and had to take off the mittens to deal with the anti-squirrel wire (it does not prevent them from eating, but from removing the feeders and taking them apart).

When I was done with my dino and rodent self-imposed duty, I was in no mood to go inside too quickly. It’s been bitterly cold in Iowa leading up to this New Year’s Day, and I was ready to spend time outside, even if just a few minutes. Dry Creek, in recent years, has rarely been dry, but I knew it had little water in it when the cold weather hit. Where there had been a bit of water, there would now be ice, anyway.

So I opened the back gate and ambled down to the streambed. I liked the quiet crunch of snow and sense of solitude, despite the occasional traffic noise from nearby C Avenue. Snapping images as I went, I headed under the C Avenue bridge, walking west in the bed of the creek.

Fallen tree arch.

West of C Avenue Bridge, walking west in Dry Creek bed. Passing under fallen tree arch.

Deer tracks let me know I wasn’t the first or only mammal to pass this way. It was bitterly cold, but very pretty as the late afternoon light turned golden and the cloudless sky was a soft wintery blue.

I saw a few skittish birds along the way, and passed under the arches of a few fallen trees. Maybe a quarter mile or less from home, I came to a tree crossing the creek that would have taken more effort to pass—doable, but a bit of limbo for an unlimber old man.

Tracks in snow

Mammal tracks in snow. Deer, and an old man.

I had only one layer on my legs and not particularly warm socks in my boots, and I was feeling the cold, so I decided the tree was a convenient turn around point. Besides, I definitely planned to be home before the light started to fade—no rambling in the woods in winter twilight for me.

As I returned to my own yard, I caught sight of a woodpecker, a frequent feeder visitor, and snapped a few more images.

Then I went inside. My wife was awake, but the grandson was still asleep, so I did a bit more class work on the computer until he awoke.

School starts tomorrow. Winter term is only one course to teach, but that one class meets for a lot of hours a day—it’s a fairly intense teaching experience, and I have a large section this term.

So, it was good to take a 20-minute hike in nature, even on a bitterly cold afternoon. A Facebook friend posted the other day that we needed to remind ourselves of the good things about living in Iowa, given this extended cold snap. These pictures, I suppose, are part of my answer. Cold as it is, Iowa is still a quietly pretty place, and a quiet pretty place, late on a sunny winter afternoon. I loved the quality of light at this time of the afternoon–the golden sunshine and blue shadows and sky. See more of my images from this walk on Flickr.

And a short stroll in the winter woods was a good way to kick off 2018.

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Trying On a New Identity for a New Year


Granddaughter in mask, New Year's Eve, 2013.

Granddaughter in mask, New Year’s Eve, 2013.

Four grandchildren from one daughter were over to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us. Actually, they were over to be watched as their parents celebrated New Year’s Eve, but we had quite a party that wound down around 9 when we celebrated 2014 in whatever time zone is two hours east of the East Coast by going to bed.

Anyway, one of the activities of the eve was decorating, and wearing, foam rubber masks. The kids, who range in age from 5 to 2 (there is also a baby under age 1, but she didn’t do the mask thing), enjoyed decorating their own masks and then wearing them.

They also tied blankets around their necks and tore around the house, becoming characters in their own superhero dramas. Their main activity as superheroes, by the way, was to “get Ben,” which is, to run down the hall to Ben’s room, yell at him, and then run the other way down the hall.

Rescue Man tears down the hall.

Rescue Man tears down the hall.

The 2-year-old girl several times arrived at my side, breathless, put her hand on my knee (I was sitting on the floor to photograph the melee) and announced that she was “Rescue Man.” I suggested once that she was “Rescue Girl,” but received a severe reprimand and reminder that, no, she was “Rescue Man.”

As far as I know, no actual rescues were performed.

Anyway, the masks had a transformative effect. The kids thought that they became someone else, and they briefly acted the parts. At one point, the 5-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy announced that they were getting married and marched off together down the hallway, apparently intending to have Ben perform the ceremony. I hope it went well.

The donning of masks, I suppose, is a New Year’s Eve tradition. In addition to putting on new identities, it’s a time of year when we look ahead and decide what we would want to change in our own identities.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, and I’m not great at setting effective life goals anyway (you know, ones that are attainable and measureable, etc.). But, how would I change my own identity? What do I hope to do or be in 2014 that I have not done or been before?

If you’re expecting a list, forget it. As I noted, resolutions aren’t my strength. Mostly, to be honest, I’m fairly comfortable in my own skin, so part of what I most would want to do would be to retain the best of what I’m already.

In this new year, I am planning to take piano lessons. This should improve my bell ringing, I hope. At my age, I don’t expect miracles, but I also think it’s healthy as you grow older to continue to try to learn and do new things—and I own a piano and I don’t play the piano, and piano lessons seem an obvious, concrete thing to do.

In this new year, I aspire to only plant native trees in the woods behind my house, and to give my poor, well forested, yard a break. No more trees in my yard. For a year. Unless one dies.

In this new year, I look forward to the blooms from fall bulbs planted in 2013. And while I plan to give the lawn a break from new trees, I said nothing about new flowers …

In this new year, I hope that my family, wife, children and grandchildren sense the unexpressed love that wells up in my heart for them. Perhaps I can find more ways to express it. I’m a guy, and not always comfortable with familial emotional expression, but to all my kin who are reading this, may you prosper, grow happier and feel more comfortable in the world in 2014.

OK, so I did a New Year’s list after all. Must have been the mask I was wearing.

Me and youngest of the four visitors, the one without a mask.

Me and youngest of the four visitors, the one without a mask.

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