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Yates: Fresh Snow

Winter sun lights the way for exploration of our Vermont landscape.

Looking out on the canvas of fresh snow that now blankets the trees and hills of our region, I realize that the artificial boundaries we create like fences, roads, and property lines are gone. They’ve all but vanished. And when I head out on skis, across the dirt road from my house, up along my neighbor’s cow path hill, over the crumbling old stone wall, and into the upper pasture I’m struck by the fresh, undisturbed vista before me. If I’m early enough, the snow is completely unmarked, except for a few tracks made by small night time travelers as they map new routes across the winter landscape.

Laying fresh tracks of my own, there’s no obvious path I must follow; no direction dictated as I make my way past the windswept contours of snow drifts.

Observing animal tracks upon fresh snow always reminds me that we have many neighbors with which we share the land, not just the human friends that we observe and interact with daily. This reflection is important and helpful, when we consider the impact we all have on each other.

I consider myself fortunate to share these paths, views, and trails not only with the local wildlife, but also with a few generous, outdoors minded individuals.

Fences are the topic of much heated debate these days. Some regard them as a necessary element in the infrastructures critical to keeping order, both legal and economic.

But from my view atop my neighbor's hill, I’m reminded of Robert Frost and what he said in his poem, “Mending Wall” about how fences often serve little purpose other than containing antiquated ideas about who we were rather than who we are right now – or who we may become.

And with the coming of the snow, it’s easy to disregard our artificial boundaries and feel the connection between ourselves and our neighbors. As we take a break from the noisy world of politics there's much to explore in the rolling hills and quiet woodlands.

With the world around us blanketed in snow, it's almost as if we have a clean slate on which we can forge a new path - a new direction forward.

Amanda Yates is the Associate Principal of the Richmond Middle School in Hanover, NH, and a facilitator of the Upper Valley Restorative Practices Group. She has spent most of her career in Education in the Upper Valley.
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