On the first snow day of 2018 — and of the 2017/2018 school year — I decided to take advantage of the rare natural tranquility offered by this white paradise, heading out on my first “nature walk” of the semester (These "nature walks" are required for my Honors Ecological Citizen course). Water bottle and camera in hand, I embarked on my spontaneous quest about UNC Charlotte’s winter wonderland. Stepping outside of Levine Hall, I was surprised by the continuous downfall of snow, which eventually accumulated atop my head and shoulders. I first visited a place where I often retire to relax and enjoy nature with minimal interruption by other people. I thought about the potential of seeing wildlife tracks freshly imprinted in the snow. (I considered tracks to be a fair substitution for the actual wildlife, which I doubted I would see much of during the mid-morning.) Just past the greeting sign at the roundabout lies a rocky path that is a rewarding experience for those willing to venture down the scenic route, venturing through a wooded trail that snakes around a pond. Though the path was hidden by the four-inch snowfall, my familiarity with it allowed for easy navigation. Taking my time and snapping pictures at every notable point — which I found to occur more often than not — I slowly meandered through the rocky snow, absorbing my surroundings the best I could. It seemed that every tree and plant was dusted by the the powdery snow in layers, the likes of which I can compare only to an experience I had in a Montana spring’s snow. The sky and surroundings alike seemed to be in a neutral tone of colors — grays, white, brown, and greens all contributed to the hues that this dappled world provided.
In the leftward picture, I couldn't help but let my mind wander to CS Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically to the scene during which Lucy and Mr. Tumnus meet for the first time at the lamppost.
I was particularly struck by another observation — the way that the usual boldness of the university’s red brick naturally seemed to fit the cool color scheme, enhancing the surrounding color as opposed to detracting from it. On a campus where the building’s bold color usually stands out beautifully, I was astounded by the way that the brick seemed to melt into the surrounding greens and whites.
I especially enjoyed the complementing colors of the three pictures above. In the last, the green colors are hidden beneath the shadows of the snow, both of which intensify the red background against which the two colors are framed. The second I thought to be truly magnificent. A twisted trunk seems to welcome the rest of the tree’s intertwining branches that are perfectly covered in snow. Interlaced with ostensible intention, the beautiful branches captivated my gaze, and continue to do so through this picture; I let myself succumb to the seemingly infinite depth that is found amongst the frosted twigs, losing myself for a moment each time I look at it.
While I could have easily spent hours in that little stretch of captivating forest, I also desired to visit the campus’s botanical gardens. I wanted to do so early whilst, at least I hoped, other students were taking advantage of the extra sleep offered by the cancellation of classes. Pressing on, I leisurely walked around the Robinson building, stopping to take pictures and mental observations wherever it deemed fit. Eventually, I arrived to the gate of the botanical garden, after, I must admit, slipping and falling in the slick snow. I have only ever walked down the notable “Gravel Path” at the garden, so I was eager to see the garden in all its wintery glory. I was on no schedule, and for a while I was alone, crossing paths with no-one else. Soaking in the sounds and the sights — the former of which was occasionally deformed by the screeching of tires as people did donuts in parking lots and drifted through soggy streets — I enjoyed the peace and stillness that the snow offered.
I find snow to be elegant and, despite its physical temperature, warm and inviting in this context, almost as if weather imposes its own “emotion” onto the surrounding world. Concerning the “context” to which I refer, I am describing what I personally felt on that particular walk and on those I have experienced like it. The gentleness of the falling snowflakes, the quietness of the surrounding natural environment and the bareness of the brush all comprised the feeling of warmth and open-invitation that I felt from the outdoors as I ventured through the snow-topped trees and hills. This respect and admiration conveyed feelings that would be fairly nonexistent if I were lost on a mountain trail with whipping winds and blinding snow — it’s all about the context. The snow loses its majesty and glory, too, when it begins to melt into a slippery, slushy mess. Because of this day I had, this one day that I knew I could enjoy the steadily-falling snow at its peak, I took advantage of the rare gift and spent my day outdoors.
My stroll through the still, hushed garden allowed me beautiful sights and scenes that told the story of a winter’s day: fresh imprints in the snow from songbirds, squirrels and unknown animals scattered throughout the trails, spiderwebs glistened with frozen decor, and large trees stood strong under the weight of snowed-down branches. As I ventured further, I was even allowed the opportunity to run across a handful of birds and a particularly friendly squirrel who was snacking on a large seed.
All in all, the snow day allowed me to encounter nature in a way that heightened my focus and attention to the small details that collectively contributed to a larger, more wholesome experience. It is with this newly-sharpened lens that I hope to view my future encounters with nature.
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1 Thess. 2:2
"...but with the help of our God we dared to tell His gospel in the face of strong opposition."