"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

5 Unexpected Lessons I've Learned from My Fear of Ice

I hate walking on ice.

Within walking distance from our home is a narrow strip of forest—preserved boreal forest within the city boundaries. In winter this gorgeous piece of bush turns into a leafless affair with compacted iced-over walking paths. (A place I can’t get enough of in summer, but avoid like the plaque in winter.)

I cross-country ski when there’s enough snow, but not in the forest. Having grown up in Africa, I’ve never become comfortable walking on ice. Ice is for skating on—and, if over water, for cutting a hole in it and doing ice-fishing.

Two days ago I set out armed with a camera and my special snow boots, hoping to capture images of the two does and their three fawns which had resided in the forest the entire spring, summer and fall. But, knowing how the landscape changes after several snowfalls, I put on the special “spiked-soled” boots, since having my camera in hand made it impossible to use walking or ski-poles. Getting a safe grip on the ground was paramount.

Great was my surprise with what I encountered.

Surprise # 1:

There was no ice on any of the walking paths through the forest—only a thin layer of soft snow. It was a balmy day at minus 3 degrees Celsius (By Manitoba standards!)

Surprise # 2:

The Sein river (stream) was still running and 100% unsuitable for ice-fishing.

Surprise # 3:

(This was a PLEASANT surprise) A happy soul(s) took the trouble and suspended a Christmas tree decoration from a tiny twig around the first bend in the narrow road. My reaction at that point was: What a silly ornament, and what silly person to have put it there; and where are the deer?

Surprise # 4:

No deer. The entire way through the forest and back, there was not a single sign of the does or fawns. Although, the fawns would probably have reached adult size—having been born in early spring. I found a small cluster of berries and a few copper leaves, still clinging to a twig for dear life.

Surprise # 5:

The only animal I encountered (except for dogs on leashes walked by their owners) were several energetic squirrels, darting to and fro.

It didn’t take me long to realize the same person(s) who had hung the first ornament, took the trouble to suspend at least twenty more, different sized trinkets and spheres from overhanging branches, along the entire path.

As I walked, looking for deer, not trusting the peace and remaining cognizant of possible ice hidden below the superficial snow, several things dawned on me.

5 Lessons I learned walking through the snow-covered forest:

1 | Be prepared to admit when you’re wrong.

    • Don’t you just love it to be right all of the time?
    • We all make mistakes. (Isn’t that terrible?)
    • Don’t confuse this with pessimism
    • Be assertive, not arrogant.
    • It’s better to prepare for worst-case scenarios and then be able to scale down—preparing for ice and not finding any made for easier & safer walking

2 | Beauty is found in unexpected places

    • Also in ordinary places
    • Yes, beauty is subjective and in the eye of the beholder
    • Appreciation of something grand or picturesque can be learned

3 | Keep your eyes open going through life.

    • Opportunities abound if we remain alert
    • Be prepared to be surprised.
    • You may discover amazing things and learn a lesson or two
    • You may meet incredible people
    • You may have fun doing so
    • Never, never, lose your sense of wonder (or humor)!

4 | Don’t allow disappointment to steal your joy.

    • Always see a (new) opportunity. If the one door closes, look for another, or find an open window!
    • There were no deer—it was too bad. And yet, look at what I found!
    • I’ve written a few poems about this walk, took many photos and found material for this blogging post.
    • Yes, perhaps I’ve grown used to being contented with the little silly things in life—even little ornaments, dangling from trees.

5 | Make a point of it to enjoy the journey.

    • The destination is not the only thing of importance (hoping to take pictures of the deer in their new winter coats) Our obsession with the final result can make us blind to the preceding experience—the journey
    • We often forget about our fellow travelers—so many opportunities arise to impact them, help them—and in the end, learn from them
    • Often the journey takes up more time than planned. Don’t fret too much. Don’t let that time go wasted. (It is part of your life.)

The outside observer may have been quick to remark: “That’s why you do your homework. Then you won’t end up on a “wild deer chase” and waste your time.

I didn’t waste my time.

In the end, I relaxed, took pictures and decided to surprise every squirrel I came across. Although, I kept worrying about what had happened to the three fawns and their moms. The department of parks and forestry had in the preceding days put up large amber flashing units next to the vehicular roads: Careful of deer crossing. Every year a couple of them get killed by unsuspecting motorists.

Perhaps I’ve been wrong all along to avoid the forest in winter. Perhaps ice is not such a big deal. Imagine what I’ve missed out on walking in the forest in winter!

How about you?

Can it make a difference if you pay more attention to your daily commute—be it the bus, train, or subway? What can you discover on your daily walk?

Thank you for reading! Want more? Take a look at some of my very short works here! 

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All photos by Danie Botha.

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