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I stepped out of the grocery store into the night. The wind was just gently kissed by tiny snowflakes sparkling under fluorescent lights. The promised “winter storm” that Siri kept announcing had arrived.

Laughing, I loaded my trunk with groceries.

“I’m not sure I’ll make it home in this, Siri.”

What year is this? It’s the year I hold conversations with the imaginary person who lives in my cellphone. I was on the near side of town, so I decided to take the country way home, a straight shot over the farmland grid, with just a few little jogs where the grid doesn’t meet up. I like to go that way to save several miles and avoid traffic.

By the time I hit the overpass over the highway, the tiny, sparkling snowflakes had thickened, the wind driving them, swirling into my headlights and reflecting the light back like a fog. I turned on my fog lights and slowed, but the snow was not sticking to the road yet. I powered on through the blizzard.

Welcome to a good, old-fashioned Midwestern winter! It was not our first snow of the season, but the one we had a few weeks ago was so mild that memory fades. I had to remember to slow down, to stop at every country intersection, even those without a stop sign because of low visibility.

Now the flakes came faster, and the road was lonely. I began to doubt the wisdom of taking the country way. The snow was beginning to stick, and it was hard to tell how deep.

If I slipped into a ditch, it would be a while before I could get a tow truck on a night like this. The snowfall was getting thicker and I began to calculate. Should I go faster so I can get home and out of this before it gets any worse? Or should I slow down more on this slippery, lonely road.

Siri urged me to turn north to get on the hard road at Route 10, but that would add several miles to my trip. Eventually I did turn north, though only as far as Kirby Avenue, which would take me through our village before I turned north again toward home.

I wasn’t going too fast, but I almost missed the little jog where the tree-in-the-middle-of-the-road used to be. The grand sentinel tree, an Osage Orange, once marked the jog so we couldn’t miss it in low visibility. It was much safer to drive this road when the tree still stood to mark our way. I braked, and my tires clutched at snow, squeaking and crunching in the night.

I slid a little, but thankfully, not into the ditch. I slowed down more and more, until I crept through the night blizzard. I was very glad to pull into my own driveway and find Michael waiting for me in the kitchen. My husband wanted to show me how he had filled the wood box and started a fire for us. The smell of woodsmoke is a perk of winter.

All night the full moon reflected off the snow, filling the bedroom with a muted blue light. In the morning we woke to a crystalline brightness, glad to have no business in town.

We spent much of our day working at our respective desks, and at lunch Michael invited me to walk his path in the woods with him. Cullen, the good brown dog, accompanied us across the snowy field, laying our footprints in the snow.

Once in the woods, we stepped carefully, since the hedge apples were covered by snow. They ranged in size from a softball to a cannonball and were treacherous to step on.

Michael walked ahead and kicked them out of the way for me. The winter forest, dark wood and leafless brambles was stark against the snow. The snow muffled the sound, so we heard nothing beyond the squeaking crunch of our boots in the ice and our patter.

Just as we were getting to the scrubby part, where woods meets meadow, I heard one lone bird, chirruping a cheerful song. It sounded like a large cricket.

Cullen had gone on ahead to flush something out, and I tried to whistle him up, but he ignored me until we had turned back and were about to emerge into the field, when he suddenly reappeared and led us home.

Hike in Beauty; Travel in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal-Republican and at Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of this newspaper.