We were returning from a short walk in new fallen snow when I spotted our tracks. We had ventured outside right in our neighborhood near Silver Lake in Bellingham, MA, where an old trolley line railbed still stands in the woods near our house. The rail bed is a straight line; the path our footprints followed was not. Despite the clear template of the railbed, our footsteps wandered back and forth through the snow.
I smiled. No, we people do not stick to the lines set out before us. There was much to see on this day after a heavy snow. Multiple witch hazel shrubs were weighed down in the snow, their fall blossoms of a few weeks before now frozen and discarded as winter sets in.
The stream that this summer had been bone dry is now filled, nearly overflowing its banks, as it tumbles through the adjacent woodland.
We spotted one other set of tracks, snow shoes, which I later confirmed belonged to my neighbor, who had gotten out earlier than we had.
The snow was deep, more difficult to navigate than what remained in our yard. Could it simply be a matter of what the wind blew? Our house is at the top of a hill, an esker, while the trolley line path is below, next to the wetlands that offer in spring the orchestra of spring peepers.
In this time with new fallen snow, the loudest sound was silence. Snow muffled nearby road noise. Still air held the cold. The tumbling of the stream over rocks created that oh, so sweet gentle symphony of rushing water as it made its way to the Peters River, and eventually to the Blackstone River, miles south of us.
Thus winter begins in earnest. It will not stay this way–rain will soon wash snow into the streams, filling them to the brim. More snow may arrive, or not. We wait and wonder. Watch your step, and happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.