It has been a rough start to the New Year. My mother-in-law passed away last week at the age of 92. She was a gentle, patient woman who lived entirely for her immediate family. Daughters, son-in-law, a nephew and his wife descended upon our abode to support us through this sad time. And so we spent the week saying our farewells and accepting the sympathies of friends.
The formal goodbyes completed, we bundled up the Floridians in base layers and herded everyone outdoors to clear our heads, lift our spirits and return to normalcy. Since the day listed a full agenda, we headed over to Brookhaven State Park. There, we could complete a walk of under 2 miles on the green trail before lunch. It felt so good to be outside in the cool air. Perhaps my emotions were still in a jumble, or perhaps having done both the red and blue trails earlier in the year I failed to take any photos at Brookhaven.
The next day our daughters left early to return to their respective homes up north. We decided to take our nephew and his wife for another walk before they had to return to Florida. So once again, we bundled them up in base layers and headed over to Avalon. Because of the need to shake off the stress of the last few months, we decided to take the longer hike encompassing both the park (near the lake) and the preserve across the road.
After the deep freeze of a few weeks ago, the temperatures had risen enough to allow the ground to thaw, leaving a slippery layer of mud on the surface. Everything around us showed that we were now deep in the depths of winter. Yet, in its own way, the stark landscape still offered us gifts of beauty. Contrary to the average person’s belief, winter does not shut down and become barren during these cold months.
Wandering through the preserve, we discovered this unique charm of winter; the simple patterns that had formed on the ice of a small pond, the remnants of last summer’s buds, the spent seed pods of the milkweed and the abundance of brilliant red seeds beneath the sumac trees. They were all there to assure us that there is a symmetry to nature if we just take the time to discover it.
As we finished our walk, the thought occurred to me that these last two days were a fitting dedication to my mother-in-law. Not necessarily the time spent outdoors, but, she would have loved that fact that her family shared this time together.