Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snow Labyrinth

The stones marking the paths of the labyrinth vanish under as little as two inches of snow. Trails I’ve laid down all year are gone as if they never existed. The landmarks I thought I knew throw me off course. Let’s see: if I stay to the left of the thornless locust, I should pass on which side of the entwined elms?

Rabbit, I think
The first tracks in the snow are usually rabbits. Two paws together, showing toes, are the bunnies. The deeper split print with a longer stride is probably a deer. None of them follow the paths I’ve laid out; our intentions are too different. They’re making a living in the cold. I’m wandering around in circles.

There’s an Irish legend about the straying sod, an innocent-looking spot where faeries have crossed the track. An unsuspecting traveler returning home from the pub late at night may be detoured into a bog when he steps there. This strikes me as a creative excuse that might not fly when the traveler finally staggers home.

Deer, probably
The labyrinth in winter is one large straying sod. It tricks me into breaking my patterns. It shows me other ways, decoying me deeper into the woods. Soon I’m up to my knees in buckbrush and greenbriar. Just beyond the thorns, though, another set of deer tracks leads me on down the hillside.

Definitely cat
Following tracks in snow is compelling. I keep expecting to stumble upon deep secrets, magic groves, mysteries. And even within a stone’s throw of the road, the mysteries appear: a young oak still wearing its golden leaves, cedars surrounding the sky pond, the path leading back to the house. I’ve come full circle, wandering like a rabbit, twisting through an uncharted labyrinth, turning like the year.

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