Here’s what I love about the seasons: They allow you to see familiar places through a new lens.
Sure, we’ve technically been in spring for nearly two months. But it’s only been the past few weeks that have really felt like a whole new season, completely distinct from winter. Suddenly, trails we skied on as recently as April are running or biking trails; the curves and junctions that became so familiar while gliding past on skis appear new to me, as if I’ve never been there before.
Suddenly we’re back on the lakes — even in them. I saw quite a few people actually swimming in Patterson Lake over the weekend, fully submerged out there in the middle of the lake (although, granted, all of them were under the age of 20, and we all know their internal temperature sensors aren’t fully formed yet).
The perfection of this past weekend’s weather inspired many residents and visitors to linger on decks and picnic tables long past the flames of Saturday evening’s sunset, watching bats in the gathering dusk, and venturing indoors, reluctantly, only when the hour drew late. Each spring’s first late night on the patio in soft, warm air makes everything seem new, novel.
This “new look at an old place” perspective comes in the aftermath of fires, as well. Not long ago I hiked a familiar trail in woods that had burned since the last time I had been there. Where I remembered a robust evergreen forest, now only charred trunks stand. Ash coats the ground, rocks are seared of their vegetation. As I walked I tried to absorb a sense of the devastation, to mourn this lost forest.
But I couldn’t feel proper sorrow, because I was too busy noticing the things I had been unable to see on previous hikes in that area. Through these scorched trees I could see distant vistas, mountain ranges, rock faces. The views I would normally get only from open spots and high passes were now visible from so many points along the trail.
I wasn’t glad that the woods had burned, but there was a silver lining (in addition — possibly — to contributing to long-term forest health, and we’re not getting into that debate in this column, or any future ones). The bright side was the unique perspective of being able to see through the forest to beautiful sights beyond. And not only were the faraway aims discernable, but the trail leading to them was clearly etched, a gray and brown line snaking through a blackened forest. I could see exactly where I wanted to go and how I was going to get there, and I was inspired to venture forth.
I think maybe this is what happens to us when we clear out the metaphorical understory and canopy. We can suddenly see not only our distant objectives, but also the path to get to them. When we get a rare chance to see through the forest, the world around us is unveiled.