Tromping through the woods, snow crunching underfoot, leaving big oval tracks where the snow shoes grip. Sun low on the horizon, golden yellow light pouring between the bare trees enriching all their glorious colors: tan, sand, taupe, fawn, toast, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, camel, caramel, coco, coffee, coffee and cream, rich, glowing, golden brown. They all are dazzling and warm in the yellow sunlight. The warmth is an illusion however, the shadow sides are dark, cold, ranging from whitish gray to black. Of course, I can pick which side to gaze at until the sun slips below the horizon, then the whole woods will sink into frozen winter darkness. But for now I can close my eyes to face into the sun, feel its week radiant heat penetrate the 8 or so sun minutes of space and earth’s long angled atmosphere to warm my face and light up the trees with its golden rays. The sky above is still pale blue, the leafless branches, silhouetted against it. I notice the half moon hanging quietly above it all, watching gracefully over the wintry landscape, waiting for darkness to shine her bright sliver self. Half a moon hiding behind and peeking around the illuminated branches as I walk. Silver moon and golden sun, white snow, glowing trees. Peace.
Drowsing, early morning, cats longing all over the bed, I roll over to the middle and stretch out feeling the luxury of the new mattress, snuggle deeper under the covers, think about sleeping more. A cat yawns, stretches, walks over and head butts me for lovin’ attention. Open eyes and snuggle the cat who erupts with contented purring, more head butts and neck nuzzles. Glancing out the bedroom window to see the snow covered hillside, purple and blue in the dawn light, I notice the ice hanging off the roof line. Not ice-cycles, but a continuous rippled curving frozen wave of ice. During the day, the snow on the roof melts and slides a little, eventually slipping off the edge of the roof in a thick layer of curving sheet ice. These formations fall once and while with a scrape, swish, whump, thump. This ice this morning is going nowhere as it is well below freezing out there. What catches my eye is the pastel colors of the morning sky reflected in the clear ice hanging from the roof. It is a mini sunrise, happening in real time. I sit up to look out the window at the sky, which is indeed in full pastel colors greeting the sun not yet up over the hill. Laying back down I watch the ice sunrise, captivated by how detailed in miniature it is. Its curve must be at a perfect angle and diameter to absorb the full sky on the convex side and show it to me in clarity on the concave side. What an amazing winter wonderland we live in!
Snowshoeing with a big group this week. I take up the sweep position, I like walking with the kind of people who end up last in the back. Its also much quieter when you’re removed from the main group. We all start out together, but quickly spread out to enter the woods trails (in the summer the mountain bikers use them). Our group hikes down to the bottom of a small saddle between two peaks and then up the other side. By the time we emerge back onto the ski trails, they are empty, the lift having closed some time ago. Its is just us and the sunset. We have a spectacular western view, with the sun sliding behind the sister peak we started out on an hour or so ago. The sky is a soft blue up high and fading into a fuzzy pale rainbow effect above the north eastern mountain ridges. You can see all the faint colors layered hazy and indistinct, pale blue darkening to purple, fading to red, bleeding to orange, shifting to yellow, turning to the palest green just above the dark mountains across the valley. As we descend we loose sight of the western sky, but watch all the subtle color changes as this side of the earth turn away from our fiery star. We come around a sharp corned and have another immense view of the west. Layers of bright orange, dark yellow, fluorescent pink, deep red, bruised purple, and where the sky peeks through the layered clouds, pale blue and palest yellow. These clouds reach out gently above us like giant fingers and fade to dark indigo toward the east. As we descend further, the colors deepen, strengthen, then fade away to darkness by the time we return to the base lodge. This is one of the many reason I enjoy snowshoeing!
There are these small orange citrus fruits found in the grocery store now that are not clementines or tangerines, but something else (probably a hybrid of some sort). They usually have cute names, are easy to peel and are very sweet tangy citrus. Some are bright orange with a skin too big and baggy for the fruit slices within, others are almost yellow or melon colored and have a skin so tight it might burst, but all of them are fun to eat, easy to carry, and good for you too. My favorite part of eating them is the anticipatory rush I get from smelling the peeled skin. The act of peeling the fruit crushes parts of the peel releasing the spicy oils which smell so strongly of ORANGE that my mouth pangs and waters. Before slowly eating the fruit one piece at a time to get maximum enjoyment from all the juicy slices, I take the peel in my cupped hands and, bring it to my nose and mouth, close my eyes, squeeze the peel to release all the oils, and inhale deeply. Tangy, spicy, sharp, bitter, pungent, strong citrus infuses my nasal passages. I can taste it all in the back of my throat and tongue, and I dream of my Florida childhood where we picked oranges, lemon, tangerines, and kumquats from neighborhood trees and gorged on them. I keep breathing in this tantalizing scent until it weakens. This is the smell of summer sunshine.
This afternoon, my husband and I went on a short snow shoe hike together in the field across the creek from our house. We followed the edge of the creek where I showed him the beaver oasis where they have made several cascading ponds, then climbed a hill up to the forest line. Another partly sunny day, it was actually peaceful and romantic, doing outdoorsy stuff together. We found a small bird nest in a bush near the ground, still perfectly formed, and with some undisturbed fall leaves resting inside. We also discovered a small paper wasp nest starting to disintegrate in the punishing winter weather. There were all sorts of tracks, none really identifiable from the distortion of repeated melting and freezing and wind blowing more snow into their indentions. We stood on an eroding bluff above the creek and contemplated the beauty of the narrow hollow we live in, admiring the mountains that close in either end. But the thing that intrigued me the most on this pleasant meander were the lazy snowflakes. They were just floating around, not falling, just hanging out and meandering like we were. These snowflakes were slowly dancing in the air, not to many, because it wasn’t actually snowing, but throughout the whole walk if you looked up into the air you could see these happy little snowflakes flitting around without a care in the world. How joyous!
Partly cloudy day is also partly sunny. Bright white glaring sunshine pours through the huge picture windows that are the wall facing the beginner hill. Suddenly, all is shadowed in blue gloom with low heavy gray clouds showering stray snowflakes. Every time I get a glance out this window the immediate weather is different then the last time I looked. I just happen to be gazing out at the sun drenched slope when I notice a threatening dark roiling fog advancing quickly from across the valley, in minutes, the sun is a week dull glow far away and stormy shadows have covered the mountains. The first few snowflakes dance on unseen air currents, flitting and flirting, soon they are joined by more frolicking friends. Its awe inspiring to see how fast they multiply into a complete white out. Nothing but swirling white floating ice crystals beyond the window, snowflakes soup! Fifteen minutes ago was super sun and now it looks impossible to even breath out there. Ten minutes later the sun shines through glistening on the millions of millions of fresh ice prisms, all is covered in a layer of pristine new snow.
Walking down the hill to my car after work, along the catwalk next to the conveyor lift, sun shining brightly from a clear blue sky, glaring blindingly off the white snow. Glance over toward the wooden handrail along the catwalk, several inches of snow piled on top. I notice there is a layer of ice under the snow dripping down the edge, glistening in the sunlight. Stop to take a closer look, it’s a rippled curtain of ice all along the edge of the handrail, as if the melting snow was trying to form icicles, but instead of independent stalactites of ice, it is an undulating sheath, a bumpy, rumpled conglomerate of hundreds of icicles formed side by side so as to make a continuous ice wall 4 inches tall under the hand rail. I reach out and touch it, slick, cold, wet, and sinuous. Amazing what curious configurations water can dream up!