Snowing Up

3-20-2017

Another whitish grey morning, overcast grey light illuminates an overcast grey landscape. Blustery, blistery wind throws biting stinging snow shards into my face and eyes as I carefully power walk for the car over the slippery, uneven frozen ground. Sitting in the driver’s seat, the heater blasting its first frigid air onto the windshield to defrost, the car is buffeted by ferocious gusts of wind. The sky itself seems mostly clear (it’s not actually snowing), but with an early glowing white color instead of blue; the sun is sleeping late today. Snow is swirling crazily, shifting one way, then another, then swooshing past in a furious gushing torrent. I start the drive to work. Passing an open field, I see the wind drunkenly running around tossing snow into the air ahead of itself. Snow devils, whirlwinds, mini tornadoes of snow spiraling up, long tangled tresses of streaming snow hair whip up from the field, diaphanous white sparkling veils of snow billow around up into the air, twirling gauzy snowy fabrics swishing in every direction at once. . Old man Winter’s gypsy daughter is dancing with abandon, throwing herself into the intense passion of the howling wind, embracing the chaos, deliriously loosing herself in the glorious glittering gale. “It’s snowing up!” I say out loud as the tremendous snow dance slams into my car, swerving me to the edge of the road and whiting out my vision. The mighty energy force of this tenacious dance is awe inspiring. I watch the wind and snow swing across the road and tumble up the hill disappearing between the dark trees. Wow!

Advertisements

Stream Frost

3-19-2017

Driving to work , numbing frigid morning, sun obscured by a continuous monotonous whitish grey sky. The kind of light that drains color, turns the whole world into a monochromatic grey-scale. Bare trees are tall black silhouettes against dark white snow, their leafless branches a random tangled blur of dark grey against the brighter somewhat illuminated sky and snow covered ground. The merest hint of shadows are indistinct fuzzy greyer outlines giving the snow a surreal quality. The field across the road is cold weak milky white, all its contours smoothed away becoming one with the sky and hills beyond. The diffused light confuses my brain with a powerful urge to go back to sleep because obviously I’m still in dreamland. Crossing a bridge over a flowing rippling dark blue grey creek, I slow down on the icy road and am mesmerized by the sinuous tendrils if mist delicately spiraling up from the slightly warmer water. Silently, persistently wrapping around every single little and large branch and twig, stem and trunk, of every brown grey blade of dead grass and weeds, bushes, and trees next to the gurgling dark water. There the secretive mist freezes solid into a thick frosty icing coating. These white frost crystals seem to glow dully in the morning half light, as if lit from within and the light scatters through the opaque layer of white ice frosting. Maybe its the life force of all those sleeping plants singing a song of spring, gently humming, biding its time, waiting for the perfect moment to burst out in its full operatic symphony chorus, but for now it is impatient, and trapped in the crystallized ice of winter’s grey and white freezing weakening grip.

One More Snowshoe

3-18-2017

I brought my gear to go snowshoeing one more time on top of the mountain after work today. I rode the lift up with 3 strangers, and actually held (what I believe to be) a coherent conversation through my nervous fear. It started snowing before we got to the top. Lazy flakes drifting slowly down to settle gently and silently on top of all the other snow still up here.

At the top, I took off into the woods on the mountain bike trails, intending to follow the same route as with the snowshoeing groups I’ve been working all season. Difference today being, I am alone on the trail, I was always in the rear as the sweep guide so I was following the line of people before, and I now am the first one up here so I am (once again) breaking trail and have no foot prints to follow.

This trip is a challenge for me in many ways. Physically, it’s 3 miles long, half of it breaking trail in 3 feet of snow, half of that going uphill. Intellectually, the trails are not well marked in any consistent manner, so I will be relying on my memory and survival skills. Psychologically, getting past the negative self talk that accompanies oneself, when one knows its snowing, getting dark, and one is somewhat lost in the middle of the woods on a deserted mountain top.

It’s actually quite amazing to know prove to myself I have the skills and equipment to get myself safely home. The deep snow was crusted over from a few warm days and freezing nights. The temperature dropped below freezing at some point and the crust got harder and crunchier. I had to stomp my feet down to break through the ice layer and pack the snow underneath. I again had to do that weird combination of high stepping marching baby steps to keep from falling over with every step. Uphill was exhausting, and I stopped for many breathing breaks. Traveling down the saddle there were still people skiing on the slope, but by the time I stared into the unmarked trail territory, the lifts had closed and I was the sole person on the mountain.

The peaceful snow fall quickly covered the landscape in a quiet frozen blanket, coating the tree branches, dampening sounds, and blotting out most of the view down the backside of the mountain into the valley where I live. I could see through the trees the hill I needed to attain, I knew the general direction I needed to travel to get up that hill, so I was following dear paths and my own ideas tromping through the snow. Other than my breathing, and the crunch of my feet, it was silent. The sound of one hand clapping is similar to the sound of snow falling. There wasn’t even the slightest whisper if a breeze, just me, the snow, and the mountain. Three good friends out for an evening walk.

I fell down once, but was able to get up, having learned that trick the other day. I crunched along drifts taller than myself, climbed a narrow path with an edge next to oblivion, and traversed through silent sighing trees standing watch over all, observers of life and death. Think of all the knowledge we could learn from trees if we spoke their whispering leaf language.

It was getting darker by the minute, I was still climbing the second peak, could see basically where I wanted to be, had to circumnavigate the last bulge to find a safe spot to ascend, when behold, I found the trail I was looking for! 10 minutes later I broke free of the woods and walked out onto the top of the peak where the ski trails tumbled down in several directions, highway wide, open, and completely deserted of people.

The fresh snow has hidden all traces of recent use, ski and board tracks, grooming grooves, ice slicks, all gone, replaced by a smooth fluffy accumulating powder. I am the only person here. No night skiing tonight, so there is no other person up here. The peaceful power of knowing it is just you and nature was overwhelming. I stood, watched to snow fall, breathed deeply of the cold air, and soaked in as much mountain serenity as I could get. The trip down was uneventful and it was dark by the time I got to my car in the parking lot. Accomplishment, feels good.

Silver Fire

3-17-2017

Driving down a deserted state road, cold early morning, gentle curves following a fast flowing creak along the bottom of a narrow valley. The water is warmer than the air so a secretive sinuous mist has risen, collected on every little twig, branch, weed, and vine of every brown plant, bare bush, and leafless tree that has grown along the creak bed, and frozen there in the night. Now the sun is shining, it has set my whole world ablaze with shimmering glittering silver fire. Sparkling ice crystals cover everything, glimmering blindingly in the bright winter morning. This fire burns intensely cold in the frigid air, searing singing happiness into my soul.

Epic Snowshoe

This magic moment is long because the moment was several hours long adventure in my own back yard.

3-16-2017

Bright beautiful golden sunshine streaming from a clear cerulean sky. The woods are calling! I bundle up, sit on the bottom step, strap on snowshoes, and start walking up the hill behind the house. Breaking trail, each step is an incredible feat of prowess, as I am sinking knee deep in the fresh powder. I take several steps and stop for a mini break, then several more steps and another mini break. Uphill is physically challenging, every step has to come straight up to clear most of the snow before moving forward. If not the snow bogs down the snowshoes and sinks my feet deeper and tries to pull me over. These are high stepping marching baby steps. Odd movement combination; takes me many near misses of falling down to get the hang of it.

Eventually, what seems like a hour later I leave our property, climbing higher up the hill. There are four of five ledges where the bed rock is exposed, old and tree covered, but cliff like in their impedance to uphill travel. At each ledge, I follow along the bottom until I find an area eroded enough to gain that ground as well. Soon my legs are physically exhausted, I can feel the muscles tremble with exertion. I take many breathing breaks. The cold air feels good against my sweaty skin. I need to find the delicate balance between covering exposed skin to protect it from the freezing air, and shedding layers so as to not overheat my core with this insane workout. Drinking from my water bottle, I notice the ice crystals forming in the liquid, they slide by my lips and melt in my mouth.

I am standing completely alone, near the top of the ridge. I have to stamp down the snow so I can turn to see where I came from, my snowshoe prints meandering through the trees looking for the easiest way through, and disappearing into the forest. I turn again to see ahead, flat smooth snow, creamy white and striped with blue tree shadows. I scrutinize the cliff ledge I have been following, I see a possible way up, but decide my legs still need to get me back home, so I don’t climb any higher.

Further along there is a hemlock stand, I head for that. Climbing over a down tree, I notice a line of small tracks in the snow, traveling straight through, the prints themselves are unclear, just indentions in the snow where the animals feet sank. I believe it may be a coyote, they like to go in a straight line and often travel alone. I startled a coyote out of a thicket once on a snowshoe walk down in the creek. She took off faster than I could blink, tawny brown and grey, big dog and powerful. In that moment I was astounded by her wild beauty, later I was thankful she decided to run away instead of holding her ground. I would have lost that fight.

I tromp into the group of hemlock trees, shaded area is definitely colder. Tamp down the snow to look around, then gaze upward toward the sky. The dark green black branches of the hemlocks almost shine with glory against the impossible blue sky, most of which isn’t visible through the tall thick evergreen branches.

I take a step forward, loose my balance, try to compensate by shifting weight, feel my ankle and knee start to painfully twist because the snow blocks my feet from moving, so I let go and fall face first flat into the snow. That did not hurt, but now I am practically buried. I try to push myself up but my hands just post hole deeper into the snow. I try pounding the snow to pack it down, but my hands break through again. I try rolling around making my body shaped hole bigger (and deeper), I try sinking my knees in so I get get purchase with my feet but you can’t stand on tip toe with snowshoes on. Eventually I am able to roll completely over onto my back, then sit up. From there, with a great effort of rocking back and forth, I was able to get onto my feet in a squat and promptly fell over forwards… So again I rolled over and repeated the rocking trick, and this time was able to get just enough forward momentum to get on top of my feet but without falling over again. Then I had to stand from the squat, oh my aching leg muscles!

So I march myself over to a tree with a old branch knob in the perfect position to act as a seat and take another break, drink some more actively freezing water, and look up again. These bare branches are black against the brightness of the bluest sky. They make amazing intricate random patterns zig-zaging, criss-crossing, and waving in the blowing wind that is swooshing through the hollow. Snow drifts down dislodged from its height, swirling in the wind and sparkling in the sunlight. Its cold crystals sting as the hit my face and melt. I hear branches rubbing or maybe tree trunks rubbing against each other. It’s a rhythmic moaning creaking sound, soft and subtle, that quietly stops as the wind dies away.

I decide to continue instead of turning back to home. Once I see an easy way down, I can just go down to the road and walk home that way. High stepping stop, stomp, stomp, breaking trail, my tracks behind me fading into the distance. I come upon a giant white pine in the middle of a small clearing. The diameter must be over 4 feet wide. The lower branches in a whirl pattern around the trunk are all dead but bigger around than my body. Up high the branches are alive and reaching for the sky. How does a single tree grow to be this huge? Why wasn’t it cleared when this area was farmland 100 years ago? Fighting the desire to climb, I push on. Maybe I can come back later in the summer to try climbing this giant.

Now I am seriously looking for a way down, I have been traversing at a downhill angle searching for a less steep area to descend. I see a red house and the road and am completely surprised to realize I have gone half a mile and am at the new bridge. Wow! I though I had traveled about half that distance. It is late afternoon now and the sun is headed toward setting, the temperature already dropping. The tree branches loudly crack menacingly as another gust of wind blows through. Finally, a slope I can safely descend. Still I end up sliding (kind of like skiing) down a significant portion of the descent. Back on the road. Pull the snowshoes off and head home. Exhausted, elated, enchanted, my ephemeral spirit continues to fly through the snowy forest.

This is what winter is supposed to look like!

Not surprisingly, I have managed to get woefully behind in writing the daily magic moment.  Such is life!  I will try to catch up again.

3-15-2017

Early morning, glowing yellow sun just above the horizon, obscured behind glowing silver grey clouds,. Driving slowly, the roads have been plowed, but are a frozen mess. The whole entire landscape has been turned into a winter wonderland, with sunshine trying to break through the snow flurries still swirling. There are piles of bright white snow along the road as tall as my car, undulating drifts in the fields, a frosty white coating on all the evergreen bows and all the bare branches of the leafless trees. Every building’s roof has a 3 foot thick layer of blue white snow settling in for a long slow melt. Cars are buried, large rounded lumps, some with windshield wipers sticking out like some sort of science fiction insect. People are shoveling out driveways, walkways, and front porch steps. A brisk gust of wind blows snow off the ground across the fields and road and quickly dissipates. I turn down the access road to the ski slope, and slow even more, I have my electronic gadget out taking quick pictures out the windshield of the winter magic happening around me. This is what winter is suppose to look like! We haven’t had this kind of big snow in several years!

Big Snow

3-14-2017

Biggest snowstorm of the year! Biggest snowstorm in several years! They are calling it a blizzard, but from here its just snow falling peacefully and piling up quickly, no crazy wind at all. I have a blazing fire in the wood stove and didn’t bother to get out of my pajamas until I decided to clear the driveway before the sun went down, not that the sun made an appearance today. I worked on relaxing, napping, reading, knitting, coloring, and snuggling with cats as the hours passed by. The snow worked on accumulating more than 3 feet high. I had to put snowshoes on to get to the basement when I wanted to feed the birds. When I did get around to snow blowing the driveway, it took my over 2 hours to clear enough of it for parking two cars. My husband is the snow blowing expert in this household, but he is in Brooklyn, so its up to me, and I have to go to work tomorrow, so the driveway must get cleared. It took 15 minutes and 2 phone calls to get the silly thing started…

For most of the day, it didn’t worry about it, just watched the natural snow globe phenomenon unfold out the window. The birds were crazy. I filled all the feeders in the front yard, and spread some birdseed on the porch for the birds who like eating off the ground. Any bird seed on the ground is covered in moments, so the porch offers a convenient alternative. The cats spend most of the day glued to the front picture window watching the show. Everybody who is anybody in the early spring bird world made an appearance, and having seed right under the picture window made the party a great one. I enjoyed standing with the cats watching our feathered friends feast on the cornucopia I have left for them. Tiny chick-a-dees and juncos, mid sized cardinal and doves, large blue jays and grackles. Many new comers too: chipping sparrows, house finches, and gold finches.

The little gold finches have not changed color yet so are still a drab olive green, with the hint of a glowing yellow just waiting to uncover itself. One female stayed on the porch long enough for me to closely examine her from 4 feet away. I had to stand perfectly still, they can see the movement beyond the window, it startles them into flight, but the seed drays them back. She was a dusty brown green color and so tiny she could have fit in the palm of my hand, even though she was fluffed up to stay warm. She hopped around in the slightly snow covered piles of seed, flinging them to and fro looking for the choice tastiest ones. Her feathers looked like velvet. I imagined her in my hand, her soft warm body quivering, heart beating furiously. I wondered how they stay warm at night when everything is so deeply buried with snow. This tiny gold finch flitting around on the porch in a snow storm is the epitome of life and death, spring trying to be reborn out of winter’s cold grip. Something so small and fragile yet has the tenacity to survive a nor’easter without even thinking about it. You Go Girl!