Steep Hills. Wood Stoves. Hallmark Movies.

I've made a point to take more walks lately.  Part of this might be to test the "there's-no-such-thing-as-bad-weather, only-inappropriate-clothing" quote as we plunge into the winter months and I attempt to master the art of layering.  I'm also adjusting my exercise habits to account for my injured shoulder. Even though I no longer can do push ups, overhead presses, or bent-over rows, at least I still can take a walk.

So, walking it is.

I have three standard walking routes from my house -- one out my front door to the right, one out my front door to the left, and another that I just call "up the hill."

It's a great hill, really.  The picture might not do justice to its steep climb, but when you finally reach the point when the road turns and then flattens, you feel like you've accomplished something.

The road, now comfortably flat, continues another half mile or so until it reaches a dead end.  During stretches when trees frame the street, you feel comfortably hedged in.  During the stretch when the trees have cleared for open farmland, you can see for miles.

Now that the leaves have fallen from the trees, it's easier to see the few houses, discretely tucked far back from the road, that populate the street.  One is flanked by a mechanic's garage, a quiet business I never before had noticed until I smelled its wood stove and talked to the mechanic who was taking a break outside.

Wood stoves have to rank as one of the all-time best winter smells.  In wafts of smoke blown by the wind's fancy, the scent of a wood stove is a magical fragrant alchemy of a fire's warmth and the air's chill, and its heartwarming deliciousness makes me wonder if I inadvertently have breathed my way into a Hallmark Christmas movie, minus the ranch, the ice rink, and the spontaneous sledding.

The last time I walked my "up the hill" route, I snagged a small branch with winter-red berries to adorn the potted plant on my kitchen windowsill.  Each time I look at the branch, I think of the walk and its sights and smells, and it nudges me to come back again soon.

Steep climbs are often worth it.  I stumbled into my own Hallmark movie, after all, and it only took a mile to get there.

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