I pull to a stop under a pine tree and glance at the exterior thermometer on my van. 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Puzzle takes one look out the window and immediately recognizes where we are and begins to hop from one seat to another, whining in anticipation.
“Just a minute, girl.” I say.
I pull on gloves, and ear warmers and raise my hood. Then, the door is open and we are out: my feet, and her paws crunching across the frozen grass. The sky above is a pale, clear blue, and cloudless. Off in the distance, one lone man throws a ball for his two Labradors. Despite the pinch collar, Puzzle strains at her leash. The cold has made her feel alive and she wants to run.
And so we run.
Concrete paths weave throughout the park but we ignore them and cut straight across the rolling expanse of grass. We come to a pond and find every plant and blade of grass around it icy with heavy frost. Several ducks splash down into the frigid water and we stop to watch them. I wonder how they can stand to swim in water so cold, and Puzzle wonders if duck is tasty. I tug her leash and we walk on.
Around a bend and to our right I spot two old trees which grew from seed right next to each other till they seem to melt into one. Their bases side by side, their branches wrapped around each other here and there in silent embrace. I pause to take in their beauty and wonder if they were seedlings when the armies from the North and the South clashed all around them in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Puzzle pulls impatiently at the leash and we run again, this time following the soft curve of a stream which bubbles here and there with waters moving too rapidly to freeze. We reach a small bridge and the puppy balks, afraid. I coax her on and she gathers her courage to cross it. I look down into a pool below and see a golf ball in the water testifying to the life of the place between the time it was a battle ground and its current existence as a park.
We follow the curve of the stream again, this time on the opposite bank. Here and there trees grow along the very edge, their roots exposed just above the water and I am sure some small animal must live in their shelter. I remember The Wind and the Willows and imagine elaborate homes in the bank hidden from view, the roots of the tree serving as terraces and porches where the Water Rat might entertain his friends on a warm summer evening.
Out into the open again, and when we come to a swell in the former golf course, Puzzle always wants to run to the top. Eventually, we reach an old sand pit rimmed with tall meadow grass. Each minute frond is encrusted with ice that dances jewel like under the brilliant sun. Before we know it we have reached the furthest corner of the park where its borders meet those of Carnton Plantation and there the stream has been altered by nature. Beavers have busily transformed it into a wetland. Oh, the neighbors complain. It floods. It smells.
Today, it is glorious.
Every blade of water grass, every reed, tree and plant is encrusted with ice. The sunlight reflects off of it is so brightly it hurts my eyes and in that moment, God speaks to me.
“If I can do that….I can handle the burden you bear. Don’t worry my child. I want you to be without care.”
I sigh and know it is true and then, I hand it all over to Him. Again.
I bend down to adjust Puzzle’s collar and rub her under the chin. She turns big brown eyes up to mine and I kiss her on the nose. It is icy.
Our walk is over. The real world awaits. My hands are freezing when I close the van door behind me and crank the engine but my heart is warm because I am reminded once again that I am safe in His hand.