Wildcat Glades Conservation Center is just south of Joplin. The Audubon Center is there also and there are paths to explore that parallel Shoal Creek and meander through the woods and climb up onto the bluffs. I’ve walked there many times….in spring, summer and fall. I’ve never walked there during winter, and certainly not with snow on the ground. It was not my intention to walk there today. I had a different “first” picked out. But the woods called to me, strongly. I was considering changing my plans and driving to Wildcat when I opened a magazine and saw a header on the first page which read, “A Stroll through the Woods”. I laughed. When I picked up a second magazine and opened it to a little article called “Winter Meditation”, which was about walking mindfully in snowy woods, I said okay! It seemed my first for this day chose me.
Still, I had a bit of trepidation about walking at the conservation center today. Our side streets are still mostly snow covered and the road winding into the park goes downhill. And it was 32 degrees out, which was much warmer than yesterday, but still chilly. I layered up, donning wool socks, boots, mittens, stocking cap and a scarf and headed out, a bottle of water in one pocket of my hoodie and my camera in the other. This year is all about pushing beyond what I feel comfortable doing, right?
I pulled into an untouched parking lot, not far from Shoal Creek. Snow covered the ground…and the path! After a few moments of searching, I found the path and headed toward the river. Once there, two sets of footprints appeared, coming in from another path and disappearing into the woods….and coming back out. A good sign! I followed that trail into the woods.
It was beautiful! I had the woods to myself. The snow softened the path and muffled sound. There was only the gentle sigh of the breeze and dry oak leaves rattling on their mostly bare branches and off in the distance, a lone woodpecker attacking a tree. It was peaceful and restorative and although the air was crisp the sun was shining and I was warm beneath all my layers. After half an hour I headed back. A huge oak tree near the path caught my eye and I rested both hands against it and closed my eyes, feeling the subtle hum of energy beneath my palms. As I patted the rough bark and turned away, a strong breeze suddenly sprang up and all around me, trees swayed and their branches danced and tossed. I laughed and waved goodbye to the trees as the trail left the wooded area and my car came into sight. It was a joyous, magical time. I’m so glad I heeded the call.