Waking up slowly, husband’s breath regular, slow, and rhythmic beside me, sleeping cats quietly snoring in their slumber. It’s dark in the room, the window a dark void beside the bed. I lay quietly, listening, refusing to look at the clock, just enjoying the peaceful solitude. Incrementally, almost imperceptibly, the window becomes more visible. I begin to see shadows of tree trunks outside. Watching now, time moving slowly, the purple light creeps in and objects in the room silently become definable, their fuzzy soft outlines solidifying into reality. Eventually everything turns blue as more light seeps in, the earth is spinning, the sun rising, first light has entered the hollow.
Hot water steaming in the tub, eucalyptus oil aromatherapy tickling my senses, leaning back against my tub pillow, breathing deeply, relaxing. I have a book beside me resting on a small towel on the edge of the tub, but I am not reading yet. I am listening, eyes closed. I hear tinny clicking sounds on the window above me. I imagine the dark cold storm outside, the freezing ice pellets falling all over the landscape, covering the earth in a hard icy candy shell. I imagine I am in a hot spring, bubbling up from the mysterious depths of mother earth, and remember an article about monkeys taking refuge in a hot spring on frigid winter days. Click, clickity, click, the sleet hits the window pane. I am grateful for hot water, wood stoves, and indoor heating. Thankful that I can lay here in a hot bath and contemplate the dark winter storm outside. Grateful for the peace, safety, warmth, and love found inside on this frozen night.
Done with work, busier than usual today, trudging back to my car through the icy sludge of the gravel parking lot, grey day, grey sunset, grey tired. Something catches my attention, dragging it away from my dragging boot clad feet. I glance up at the hillside above my head and notice that every drooping branch of every dark dark green-black spruce tree is layered with white, pure, glistening snow, heavy and frozen in place. Looking up from underneath, I see if from a completely different perspective than all those picture perfect post cards of snow covered evergreens. I stop walking, gaze up in wonder at the wild winter tableau, soak it in for a few moments until the biting chill wind zips its way into my clothing and stings my skin. Moving on now, but with a lighter gait, floating with the buoyancy of winter enchantment.
The slope is closing and everyone is heading out, I am walking down the open hill to my car in a lower parking lot, I stop to take in the scene. The light is a fading blue grey that makes everything look dark and dull, people carrying skis and snowboards that look like extra awkward appendages sticking out at odd angles are scurrying in waves down the hillside spreading out like ripples in flowing water, cars are scurrying out of parking spaces and around pedestrians in a hurry to get somewhere else. It brings to mind a disturbed anthill, where all is chaos. I almost laugh out loud, shaking my head (I’ll be an ant down there too in a few minutes). Turning my head I sweep my gaze out over the valley toward the western horizon, where a week glowing fuzzy yellow sphere has almost slid from sight behind an uneven dark and purple ridge line. Palest pale pink finger clouds, stretching wide from the palest pale yellow palm center, reaching far out into the palest pale blue until all the colors blend and fade to the darker blue and purple of a sky darkening toward night. Small snowflakes drift lazily around pick up all the colors of the sky shifting night-ward. I could fly up into that open sky wilderness, a tiny bright snowflake, far away from all these scurrying people. But if I am a snowflake flying among billions of other snowflakes, is that any different that being one ant among all the scurrying ants? Conundrum! Maybe I’ll just be happy being me, go home and curl up with some cats and my husband in front of a warm fire, safe and cozy. Peace.
I’m home from work, tired, getting dark, but want to go snowshoeing, rain in the forecast for tomorrow, this may be my only chance until the next snowfall ( didn’t get to go last winter at all because there was never enough snow to use them). So, some quick household chores, grab a balaclava and gloves, strap on the snowshoes and go! Out across the creek, following that treeline between water and field. Skish crunch, skish crunch, rhythmic steps leaving tracks in the snow. Darkness settling, all is purple, indigo, and shadow. Down in the creek is a beaver oasis, what I have come this way to see. Small terraced ponds, held back by strong dams, intricately laced together sticks, rocks, and mud, water gently trickling over algae covered rocks between the bottom of one dam to the top of the next pool. The water on this side of the island is from several small springs and many weeping wet areas, so it is still liquid even on the coldest days. The ponds don’t freeze over solid either. Water colored slush covered with white snowflakes forms on the edges, but the middle stays open and clear. You can see the several feet to the bottom, brown leaves, mud, and old tree branches. Now, at night, it looks cold, deep, dangerous, and dark. No beavers tonight, but I like to admire this little world they have created for themselves, alive even in the coldest darkest heart of winter. Skish, crunch, skish, crunch, leaving the creek, climbing a hill back up to the open field, looking down and across, I can see the lights of our little cabin through the trees, orange glow through the windows, warm and inviting. The darkness has enveloped the valley, night has closed in, shadows obscure the contours of where I am stepping, skish, crunch, skish, crunch, headed home.
Sun has set, quietly, gently dipped below the black ridge along the western horizon, mostly clear pale blue sky surrounds the spot where the sun disappeared. This color fans out deepening and darkening until is it dark purple and black in the east with the first few sparkling silver stars waking up. Random small puffy clouds pale peach, pink, yellow, and pale orange highlighting their fluffy contours, moving with purpose across the sky, disappearing behind trees and ridges far away. What makes them hurry so, when there is only but a wisp of breath in the stillness down here barely stirring the hair on my head?
I have an (ir)rational fear of edges, not so much heights, but being on an edge, I get dizzy and feel like I am falling, not a balanced way to feel when one is trying not to fall off an edge, weather it is 3 feet or 300 feet off the ground. Put a guard rail there and I am fine, I’ll stand at an overlook on top of the world, exhilarated at the power of being up high and seeing everything, but I won’t go near the edge unless there is a visible barrier. So doing things like riding a chair lift up a ski slope is not something I enjoy. The last time I rode one was 10 years ago when I had to as part of my assistant ranger job to quickly get up Hunter Mountain to open the fire tower for visitors. Well, today, I had to again. I was working as a snowshoe guide at Windham Mountain, we rode the lift up and snowshoed down. I’ll be doing this every Saturday for the next few weeks! So there I was, the sweep guide of our group, last in line to board the chair lift. UGH! As I positioned myself for the next chair, “I hate the chair lift” I told the teenage lift attendant, she laughed (she though I was joking), I replied “No really, I freaking hate the chair lift!” just as the chair scooped me off my feet and swung into the air. I shrieked, everyone on the ground laughed, the chair was swinging wildly, I was clutching my snowshoes and poles to my chest with one arm and had my other are wrapped around the back of the chair. I looked up at the bar over my head and knew I would have to let go of the chair to bring that bar down across my lap. Well, that’s what I did. I decided I didn’t want to be petrified, I slowly let go and reached up to pull the bar down and put my feet on the foot rest so they wouldn’t dangle. The chair quit swinging and I settled into the ride. Taking deep calming breaths, trying to be aware of bodily sensations, feeling the metal wrung under my feet and cold chair under by butt and against my back, the feel of my gloved hand holding the metal bar across my lap, the gentle crisp air brushing against my cheeks. This was calming. I looked around at the skiers sliding below me on the snow, the evergreen tree branches next the lift that were almost close enough to touch if you reached out, the snow guns blowing snow below my feet, the chair lift riders gently swaying in front of me happily gossiping to each other, the steep rise of the solid snow blanketed mountain all around. I set the snowshoe on the seat beside me and turned sideways in the seat the look around some more. I watched, heard, and felt the chair go past the towers and let curiosity overtake anxiety. Let go and be free. I didn’t even mind when the chair slowed and stopped moving for a few minutes, that was just more time to enjoy the view!