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Fierce Green Fire: Explore the frigid landscapes of Illinois
Posted By Staff On December 16, 2009 @ 12:00 am In Outdoors | No Comments
By Jonathan Hicks
The windows were shut and subtly frosted with cold. It was one of those nights so dark and chilling that few are compelled to venture out and cocoon themselves in the black blanket of brisk air. Not among the rare daring souls, instead I was among the many who were content with the icily-distorted view from my living room window.
It was the kind of night perfect for curling up with a book…so that is what I did. Doing my best not to lament the fact that it was a textbook for a class, I couldn’t help but watch the frost slowly and steadily move up the glass as the air outside grew cooler.
And then it happened.
Though I was locked tightly indoors, there are some things that pervade even the most impermeable of human-made structures. My nostrils were invaded both suddenly and aggressively by perhaps the most remarkably pungent and delightful scent imaginable. Out loud, I said to myself, “Either a skunk just sprayed outside, or my neighbors are cooking something I am definitely not going to try.”
On most evenings, I might not have been so excited to experience such an uninviting aroma, but this night was different. Much like playing bingo and finally getting the O-72 you needed for the win, smelling this unique odor felt like victory.
It is not that I find it particularly alluring, nor do I enjoy pain; but the smell of skunk in December is a rarity. Much like me on that evening, skunks are reluctant to venture out into the cold between November and March. While males will occasionally leave their underground burrow for a bite to eat, females and their young almost never do prior to the beginning of mating season in late February.
While even the thickest of scarves cannot keep us warm as the icy hand of winter begins to run its frozen fingers down our necks, there is consolation in small moments such as these. Feeling liberated by the bold skunk who chose to leave the safety of his warm abode, I, too, struck out into the evening.
Yes, it was cold. It was also incredibly calm, however. Few cars, fewer people… just the lights, trees and streets of my neighborhood…and, of course, the potent reminder of my local skunk. It was as chilly as expected, but the frigid air in my lungs provided a catharsis for which I did not even realize I yearned. I was alone, but I was alive.
I did not have a particular destination. Indeed, where I ended up was of little consequence. What was significant was that I would not be confined by the cold. My adventure was solo and circular; I saw very few living plants, and did not see a single animal. No, this was not a winter hike through Yellowstone, but it was no less important.
The winter months are about to lock us into our homes, but that is only true if we let that be the case. The frigid landscapes of Illinois remain striking and stoic in the face of winter. And sure, the smell of the skunk is bad; but what would really stink is if we ignored the beauty on the other side of the glass just because the thermometer dipped lower than we would like. After all, “warm” does not always mean “alive.”
From the Dec. 16-22, 2009 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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