Whose woods are these?

I’m not usually a fan of Valentine’s Day. My husband and I sometimes exchange little gifts, but not always, and we rarely do anything besides that to mark the day. It’s not that I mind Valentine’s Day, though as a teenager I hated it—a reminder of my lack of a boyfriend and, therefore, the inevitability of a life without love. It’s just that it’s never done much for me as a holiday. I’m not into pink or love hearts, and I’ve always found the Valentine’s Day decorations in shops a little sickly.

But this year felt different. It’s certainly one of the most snowy Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had. We’ve had snow falling from the sky pretty much continuously for the last two days. It’s the kind of snow that sticks to everything, so dog walks and walks through the woods have been particularly magical. Yesterday we took a long family hike up through the woods. We put Clara in her chariot (a bike trailer that converts to a stroller, so it has large wheels and thick tires that can deal with bumpy paths and thick snow) and bundled her up with blankets. She’d skipped her nap earlier in the day and she soon fell asleep. At first we kept remarking on how beautiful the woods looked, admiring the big fat globs of snow on fir tree branches, and stopped often to take photos. But eventually we hit our stride and walked along in silence, lost in our own thoughts. Up in the hills, we were mostly alone, and the world felt muffled. There were no grand views across the sea to the mountains on the mainland—the view was shrouded by grey clouds and falling flakes. I felt a sense of peace and contentment as we pushed the baby through the snow and encouraged the dog to c’mon. And yet the world felt new, remade and full of possibility.

This morning I took the dog on his morning walk. We took the old railway trail along the edge of the woods and then turned up towards the main road. As I turned the corner onto Main Street, I was greeted by a heart-warming sight: pink and red paper hearts dotted across the shop fronts and telephone poles. Apparently, it’s a Cumberland tradition that has been going on for years. I tried to snap a few photos and stopped to read some of the messages. A few other people had stopped to read them too, though the main street was mostly deserted.

“There are no unimportant jobs, no unimportant people, no unimportant acts of kindness.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr. I particularly liked this quote. I think it speaks to this last year, when I’ve felt somewhat invisible as a stay-at-home (in more ways than one) mum and that the “job” I’m doing (looking after my daughter) somehow isn’t enough, isn’t important.

As I finished off the dog walk and approached our house, I felt well and truly loved-up: I am head over heels in love with my new home. I also realised something else: I’ve been feeling the Valentine’s Day vibe a lot more this year and I think it’s partly because I haven’t been as exposed to the commercialised version of the holiday as I have in previous years. Cumberland doesn’t really have any chain stores, just small local coffee shops, restaurants, clothing stores, and a wholefoods store, so I haven’t been subjected to those sickly displays you see in supermarkets and box stores (my husband is still doing our weekly grocery run, since it doesn’t make sense for us all to go to the store these days). I also haven’t been spending nearly as much time on social media since I deleted my Twitter and Instagram accounts, so I haven’t been as bombarded with advertisements—I swear, by the time I left Instagram, every third or forth post was an ad. Lately, I’ve been wavering in my commitment to quitting social media, so it was nice to realise that there are some benefits to going without my daily scrolls.

After the dog walk, I cooked up a Valentine’s Day brunch of potato hash and eggs, and baked some blueberry cake. Stuffed full of delicious food, we took another family walk through the snowy woods. When we got back, I played in the garden with the baby. She is fascinated by snow balls and so I made piles of snow balls for her. The snow was thick and wet and reminded me of the butter I had beaten together with sugar earlier on in the day. My husband made hot chocolate and bought me flask of the steaming sweet liquid. Acts of love all—a cake, a snow ball, a cup of warmth.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear reader.

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