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Find Your Happy Place

A snow covered trail just waiting to be explored — could this be your “happy place”? 
photo by Susan M. Songster Weaver

A snow covered trail just waiting to be explored — could this be your “happy place”? photo by Susan M. Songster Weaver

Do you have a “happy place”? If so, is it somewhere you feel peaceful and content, somewhere that makes you smile all over? That’s how I feel when I am in mine, but my “happy place” isn’t always the same. It changes with the seasons. In the spring, it’s in my garden. Summer’s “happy place” is out on the boat in the middle of the lake. Hiking in the woods fills me with contentment in the fall, and cross-country skiing fills the slot in winter.

I love all the seasons and their respective outdoor activities, but cross-country skiing in the dead of winter is my all-time favorite. Ha! I can almost hear the collective groans from my readers with that comment, but it is true. Other than spending time with my grandchildren, there is almost nothing else I would rather be doing.

It was a stroke of luck, in my opinion, that significant snow came and stayed for much of December. I was home from Florida for the holidays, and my heart sang when I watched those snowflakes fall.

My maiden voyage this year was just a short run. I skied down the road side, around the Lakewood Dog Park and boat launch, then back to my house. I was a little worried I was going to have trouble because of my knee replacement. My skis had not been used for the last two seasons because there hadn’t been enough snow. Luckily, the worrying was needless. I fell right back into the groove, and my soul rejoiced.

The next day, I strapped on my skis and traversed the five foot snow banks on each side of the road to access the path across the street from my home. This, too, is a short run through the woody area behind Alfie’s Restaurant on Fairmount. A little creek flows adjacent to the woods. It carries the runoff from a small cattail swamp into the lake. The area requires maintenance from time to time, so there is a culvert over the creek as well as a gravel roadway. The whole area isn’t very big, but it is peaceful and quiet along the path. Oftentimes, I will see deer and small flocks of mallard ducks there.

The weather turned a little wild on that day with temperatures hovering near zero and wind gusts about 15 to 20 mph. I was dressed warmly enough, but I didn’t stay out long. Knowing the snow wasn’t going to melt soon meant the skis would get used another day.

That day came soon. I loaded the skis into the car and drove to Bergman Park on Baker Street. The sun was shining and the skies were blue, but the temperature was very cold. The snow was perfect, and I glided along almost effortlessly on my skis. Never one to stay on the beaten path, I bushwhacked down through the woods along the edge of the park, and that’s when I saw them. At first, the small herd of deer didn’t see or hear me, and that is one of the best things about cross-country skiing — you travel silently.

I stopped and stood still. It was only a few seconds before the deer stopped foraging and froze, lifting their heads with ears twitching and eyes scanning their surroundings. With as little movement as possible, I fumbled with my camera, hoping to get a picture. Then, they either saw or smelled me and off through the woods they bounded. I never did get a good shot.

As I watched the last flash of white from a tail disappear into the underbrush, I found myself smiling all over. Even though I messed up the photo op, I wasn’t upset. The peaceful contentment of the snow covered woods washed over me. I let out a deep sigh and looked towards the blue sky softly whispering my thanks for this – my “happy place.”

Life is what we make it. So, if you don’t already have a “happy place,” I hope you find one that fills your soul with gladness. See you on the trails and on the water in the spring!

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chaut-auquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

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