Winter Walk with Ancient Alders

Walking in a wooded area in the middle of winter is such an enriching experience. There aren’t any wildflowers stealing the show, except for a lonely herb robert, but there are so many other wonderful things to see. Ferns, lichens, fungi, and tiny new plants poking through the thick carpet of alder leaves. This new life was especially encouraging. I believe they are lesser celandine and they will soon cheer us with bright yellow flowers.

I also discovered some black mushrooms. I know nothing about mushrooms and after an extensive internet search, I’m tempted to say these are blue chanterelles, which are meant to be edible. I wouldn’t risk it, though!

The trees were the heroes of this walk. The alders along the stream are absolutely majestic. I couldn’t help but notice how they keep this landscape together. Their extensive roots hold the riverbanks and pathways intact while their rust-coloured leaves give nutrients back to the soil and provide cover for new growth. I was particularly glad for the shelter they offered from the icy December wind. I’m grateful to have spend a few hours in the presence of beings who have seen so many winters come and go.

I’m sharing one of my favourite poems by Margaret Atwood from Dearly. It captures the uncomfortable mixture of wonder and unease I often experience when walking:


I missed them again this year.
I was immersed elsewhere
when the weather broke
and enough rain came.

In the treeshade, stealthily,
they nosed up through the sandy loam
and the damp leaf litter-

a sliver of colour, then another-
bringing their cryptic news
of what goes on down there:
the slow dissolve of lignum,
the filaments, the little nodes like fists,
assembling their nets and mists.

Some were bright red, some purple,
some brown, some white, some lemon yellow.
Through the night they nudged,
unfurling like moist fans, living sponges,
like radar dishes, listening.

What did they hear in our human world
of so-called light and air?
What word did they send back down
before they withered?
Was it Beware?

Look. The remnants:
a leathery globe of dusty spores,
a nibbled pebbly moon,
a dried half-sphere,
a blackened ear.

Margaret Atwood, Dearly


Thank you for visiting the Wild Library blog. I hope you enjoy the final days of 2022.

Happy walking,


4 thoughts on “Winter Walk with Ancient Alders

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