My 7-year-old companion and I set out to collect pieces of nature for a school project and a gift for her mother. As I walk toward the woods, all I see are the remnants of winter – a collage of browns and grays in the woods and fields – typical of February. She is picturing colors. She scurries off ahead of me into the woods. Halfway across the parking lot, the calls of a red-shouldered hawk cause me to stop and stare up above the trees. His call quickly Peters out – then all is silent. I close my eyes and all I hear is a prickly leaf scratching the asphalt in a race with the wind. I open my eyes and watch a dry tan oak leaf scudding ahead of me.
I scan the woods in front of me and all I see are gray tree trunks and tan oak and beech leaves – the last leaves of the winter to fall to the forest floor. I catch up and we start to examine the ground more intently. We see white and black rocks with grayish-green lichen splotches in the dry creek beds. Upon closer examination, we find dark green ferns, pistachio green moss, and yellowy-green daffodil shoots pushing up through the thatch. We find red berries and red-stemmed wineberry plants. By the time we return home, we have more than enough for several arrangements and a newfound appreciation for our walks in the woods any time of year.