Nat­u­ral rem­edy

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Russell Wanger­sky Russell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at russell.wanger­sky@tc.tc Twitter: @Wanger­sky.

Up, up high on the win­ter bar­ren­lands, and the low grey over­cast is lit in a thin strip al­most lemon-yel­low along the hori­zon.

In the town down be­hind and be­low you, a col­umn of thin grey smoke rises al­most straight up — the smoke you’d see if some­one was burn­ing spruce boughs in their yard — and then, as if it was pass­ing through a layer of light wind, the col­umn smears left, hitch-hiking south. The ocean be­hind, a flat grey-blue like painted ce­ment.

On the bar­rens, the heavy old snow has flat­tened all the brush. Even the alders have their branch-points pinned to the ground and held by ice. Here and there, the wild roses have found a way through, only to have their scar­let hips pulled apart by the small birds, the leath­ery out­side strewn on the snow like or­ange peels left on the field at half-time in a chil­dren’s soc­cer game.

There are pine siskins and jun­cos and chick­adees back in the trees. You can hear their hide-and-seek cheeps and chirps, but they are dev­il­ishly hard to spot. Not so the one grouse, lum­ber­ing large and dark through the un­der­brush, stop­ping be­cause he is con­vinced that, if he re­mains mo­tion­less, you will never spot him. Raise an arm, as if point­ing a gun, and still he does not move. Kin­glets wing into the air in for­ma­tion, peep­ing and jink­ing.

The rab­bits are con­fused — no, the rab­bits are con­fus­ing. There’s enough light snow on top of the hard­pack for their tracks to be clear. Big rab­bits, small ones, cir­cling ones — some with tracks close enough to­gether to be hardly mov­ing, oth­ers set fur­ther and fur­ther apart as lope be­comes head­long run. Their trails run riot, so scat­tered that there would be no clear runs for set­ting a suc­cess­ful snare line. They me­an­der from for­age to for­age; it’s easy to stop and see the tooth­marks on the soft bud-ends of branches, the small con­fetti of de­tached bark dusted on the snow.

Fur­ther up, a lone buck rab­bit sits in the lee of a spruce tree, one black mar­ble eye fixed on you un­blink­ing and, like the grouse, he is equally con­vinced of the magic of his dis­guise.

A snow­mo­bile has been here, high on the hill where the trees back off to brush, and you can see the in­den­ta­tions of its track where it stopped and stood be­fore head­ing back down, and the clovered prints of the paws of the dog that ran be­side it, the boots of the man — larger than mine, dis­tinct, new soles — who got off it and put on snow­shoes, and the line of those snow­shoes head­ing down the path to­wards a boggy pond that al­most no one ever reaches.

It’s clear from the tracks that the man and his dog wound their way into the woods, the dog tak­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to scent and move side­ways into the brush, and there’s a lone 12-gauge shot­gun shell, pur­ple plas­tic tube and bright brass base, stand­ing straight up and melted into the snow where, spent, it was ejected from the gun.

There is no sign that the hunter hit any­thing. But then again, there is no sign of spring or sum­mer, no sign of a wind to­day. Some­times, it’s just won­der­ful to be in a spot the way it is right now, with noth­ing else to in­trude. The glower of the sky, the tem­per­a­ture high enough for the air to smell of melt, the crunch of the ice un­der­foot, the sound of the win­ter woods.

Were you ex­pect­ing some­thing on Trump, and the gen­eral de­cay of good­will in North Amer­i­can hu­man­ity? Of ha­tred and the need to find a bet­ter way for all of us to talk? Sorry — not to­day. Some­times, you have to stop and take a breath.

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