THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS

A steady snow had been falling through the night. The next morning dawned like one of those first days of creation. Everything felt new, fresh, sparkling, wonderful. Those early hours were perfectly still, and I knew it was time to get out the snowshoes.

From our back door where my wife and I lived at the time, I could track down the hill, pick my way through the woods, and link up with a series of trails that ran through an extensive nature preserve. Once on the trails, I would head for a stand of magnificent white pines. In that special place, it was as though a natural cathedral had been constructed and set down there for any woodswalker who happened by. The tall pines, reaching toward the clouds, had allowed for very little growth in the understory. The ground, when it was without snow, lightly reverberated with that cushioned, almost sacred sound underfoot, maintained by so many years of pine needles that had come to rest beneath the venerable trees.

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