Tag Archives: Blizzard

Threatening Forest: A Review of Over the River and Through the Woods

Book cover for Over the River and Through the Woods by Evan Camby. Image on the cover shows a young woman wearing a cape walking through an incredibly dark woods. You can see weak and light green light filtering through the woods at the far end of the path she is walking on. It is barely light enough to make out the outlines of the trees in the rest of the forest, and the effect is of cloying and threatening darkness that threatens to envelop the girl as she scurries towards the light. Title: Over the River and Through the Woods

Author: Evan Camby

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: June 21, 2016

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 28 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Old Settler’s Woods is haunted. Evil. A place Ellie swore she would never set foot again.

It’s the winter of 1941, and a devastating blizzard has struck her small town. With the roads blocked, the only way to reach her ailing grandmother is to take the trail through Old Settler’s Woods, a place of unspeakable darkness and decay. Faced with losing the only family she has left, Ellie must contend with the evil once more. But will she survive with her sanity–and her soul–intact?

Review:

Content Warning: Hypothermia, mild violence (think ghosts lightly scratching at someone’s arms),  and an implied murder that was never actually described or confirmed.

These woods are dark and deep, but not even Frost would make the mistake of calling them lovely.

The atmosphere was utterly perfect. Anyone who has ever walked in or near a forest on a cold winter day might recognize the uncertainty that can flood the nervous system when one hears something cracking, snapping, or scuffling off in the trees without being able to tell where the sound is coming from or who or what might be making it. Yes, it’s probably just an animal running away or a tree branch breaking under the weight of the heavy snow on it when it happens in real life, but that doesn’t necessarily make the experience any less eerie. My brain was flooded with memories of such days as I read this, and I shivered with delight as Ellie rationalized away what she was hearing and kept walking further into the forest no matter what.

I kept finding myself wishing for more substance to this story. There were brief glimpses of and hints about the terrible things that had happened in Old Settler’s Woods over the years, but none of them were described in enough detail to make them come to life in my imagination. I desperately wanted to give this a higher rating based on everything else I loved about it, but in the end this issue held me back from doing so. Reviews must be completely honest if they’re to be trustworthy, after all.

Ellie was a practical and resourceful woman, so I appreciated the time Ms. Camby spent explaining why Ellie would even think about wandering into a forest that her grandparents had spent years warning her to avoid. Not only that, but she did it during a fierce blizzard when the radio was warning everyone to stay home and off the roads! These are the sorts of scenes that can make or break a horror story, so I was glad to see so much attention spent on Ellie’s reasons for venturing out and why turning back wasn’t an option for her no matter how cold or frightened she was. I understood where she was coming from, and I felt like I got to know her better because of it.

Over the River and Through the Woods made me shudder.

Mindfulness During a Snowstorm

black and white photo of person walking alone on a city sidewalk during a snowstormJanuary is the quietest time of year in Ontario.

Life slows down here quickly once this month begins.Not only have the majority of the big winter holidays have passed by, the weather itself isn’t terribly conducive to driving anywhere even before this pandemic began.

The overnight temperature can dip to -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) or colder, and we often have sleet and snowstorms taking turns making slippery messes of our roads and sidewalks.

There is nothing like sitting next to the windows in my home and watching the snow blanket everything on those days.

Sometimes it falls so quickly that buildings on the other side of the street have been transformed into dark blurs of colour behind a shimmery white veil of snow. Anything past that point is so smudged beyond recognition that I wouldn’t know what it was at all if I weren’t already familiar with it.

My mindful approach to these days is something that started early in life. Let’s meander for a while.

Quiet Snow Days

These storms remind me of the years I spent growing up in a small town in Wyoming. Sometimes it snowed so heavily that all of the highways and other roads going into and out of town were closed. Residents were asked to only use local roads for emergencies, so almost everyone stayed home and waited out the weather.

two wooden cottages almost totally covered in snow
The snow was this deep in the nearby mountains, but not quite so heavy where I lived.

I was a slim, petite kid. For a while I remained just barely light enough to walk on top of snowbanks that had partially melted and then frozen again.

Those moments were pure magic and required no thoughts flitting through my mind at all while I carefully walked without leaving a trace in the snow.

These snowy days of the present also remind me of a massive blizzard many of us on the eastern half of North America experienced in the late 1990s.

It happened as my family was moving across town, so I had many opportunities to see the snow as my parents were driving and in the yards of both our old and new homes.

My siblings and I had our typical two weeks off from school for the Christmas holidays that year. It began snowing heavily right before we were scheduled to return to school. For the next two weeks, school was cancelled one day after the next.

Sometimes it would be delayed by an hour or two before being cancelled. Other days were so stormy that everything was cancelled immediately. I remember waiting quietly for the news each morning with no expectations since our superintendent was normally so reticent to cancel school despite how much time it took the county to salt and plow all of the rural roads that would bring students back to class eventually.

Once the announcement was made, there was often a moment of silence as I wondered how I should fill my time on yet another unexpected day since we were between semesters and I’d finished the homework we’d been given before Christmas break began.

Then a few of the members of my household would either drive across town to our old house to take another van full of stuff to the new one (if the town roads were cleared and salted recently enough for this to be safe), go shovel off the roof,* or put a previous load of stuff away.

*It was an old, flat roof in some places. That snowstorm was so heavy and never-ending my parents were afraid the roof would be damaged if they didn’t clear it off.

Snow Encourages Mindfulness

Even beyond these personal experiences, snow itself encourages silence. It dampens sound as explained in this post.

close-up photo of a snowflake Have you ever taken an outdoor walk during or after a big snowstorm? Whether you live in a big city, a small town, or miles away from the nearest neighbour, the world becomes a much quieter place after a storm like that.

All of that snow acts like insulation. Everything from bird chirps to the roar of a river (if it hasn’t already frozen over) to the rumble of a truck driving down the road is quieter than it normally would be.

Even the soft crunch of boots walking on fresh snow is quieter than normal.

If you’ve never experienced this sort of moment in time, I hope you’ll have a chance to try it someday.

The world is such a quiet, solemn place then that I find it easy to walk without thinking. Nearly all of the familiar landmarks in my area will still be recognizable during or after a big storm, but their edges are softened and muted.

I live in an urban area where it is pretty safe to walk outside even during the heaviest snowstorms, so sometimes I’ll go stand on the sidewalk (far away from the road) and watch the snow cling to everything from skyscrapers to my glasses.

In those moments, there is no need for words or thoughts. The snow will end when it ends. Until then, I sit indoors or stand outdoors and marvel at the feeling of snowflakes coating my hair, coat, boots, and every other surface they can possible reach in this corner of the world.

If you have snow where you live, how do you react to it?