This is a new year, I thought, as I walked into the woods. Past the “no trespassing” signs that I ignored. The green is just a whisper; I wonder if I’m dreaming it. But no, little green bits are showing on the honeysuckle and multiflora bushes. I scan through the understory—the spicebushes will be greening soon. They are still a gray haze even though I know their leaves are furled into tiny balls, the green just a strip about to pop. Across the forest floor layered with brown leaves, I see a shock of bright white, chunks of a downed birch tree that looks like a carcass of bleached bone.

The streams are running good—filled with tightly wound bunches of skunk cabbage, their burgundy carapaces holding in the burgeoning chartreuse. Thick moss covers the rocks. I pass some false turkey tail fungus, then right after, I see some actual turkey tail feathers, in a sad pile. Bright orange witch’s butter catches my eye. Dead birch leaves still manage to look poetic. Long, loose catkins of hazelnut bushes sway in the wind. This year is starting fast and early. I am ready and waiting.

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