The trail, plainly visible in the fresh snow, led beyond what we had always assumed to be the end of this particular spur road.

We followed the trail through a clear cut and into straggly third growth, skirting the edge of a mountainside that had burned on the Fourth of July several years ago. It led, eventually, back into a forested riparian area.

Tree branches traced a graceful arc, weighted down by fresh snow on fall’s few remaining leaves. Visible below us were Lake Whatcom, and Bellingham, and the bay with its islands beyond. Far in the distance, clouds piled up on the Olympics.

The sun broke through the clouds, thin November light catching in the icy trees.

We basked in a protected, sun-warmed clearing. That hush particular to freshly fallen snow drowned out, momentarily, the chatter of an outside world.

The snow, the unexpected gift of sunshine: what had been routine was revealed as an entire world, new and wholly lovely. And I, deeply contented at the idea of being alive in such a moment, in such a place.

Gratitude, it seems, has something to do with the capacity to be pleasantly surprised.


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