Driving through town after dark, snow covering the tree branches and shrubberies. Christmas lights cheerfully aglow on people’s houses and in their yards. When the snow covers a bush with lights on it, the colors shine through the snow as a muted glow, a circle of soft radiant light, emanating from the depths of the snow. Gone are the individual bright sparks of colored bulbs, replaced with hazy spheres of glowing color, like mystical orbs, or fairy lights in the forest. The first time I saw Christmas lights under the snow, I didn’t realize it was a pretty accident, but thought it was a new fangled light display. Silly me! Mother Nature wins again!
The snow shoe tours that I help guide at Windham Mountain are billed as a sunset tour. The guests get a package deal of snowshoe rentals, lift ticket, guided sunset hike, and a dinner at the upstairs restaurant. People seem to love this idea; the size of the groups of participants have ranged between 12 and 50 people, but average about 20 or so and ages have been all ages between 7 and 70+. I like being the sweep guide because I don’t hike very fast and there is almost always someone who is struggling to keep up with the main group, so I can go at their pace. I make sure the guests in the back are having just as much fun, it is not a race after all. Those of us in the back actually spend more time on the mountain enjoying the view! I also make sure no one gets lost or separated and that we all make it down safely even though it gets dark before we are off the mountain and back at the lodge.
Today was a first tour of the season, a special Christmas break tour on a Wednesday, instead of the usual Saturday evenings. It was another cold grey winter day with a pewter sunset over dark mountains. What was spectacular was the view of the valley with the town of Windham all lit up with Christmas lights twinkling merrily in the night with darkness creeping slowly and silently up the mountain side, the sky and snow covered ground mirroring the dark blue of infinity as the last of the sunlight faded away. Mesmerizing!
Full dark comes early this time of year. The sunlight is always slanting, even at high noon. I do miss those long summer days spreading out like warm golden honey from horizon to horizon. Now that the leaves are gone from all the deciduous trees, we can see the three houses across the hollow. I stepped out onto the porch after dinner, turning off the light so I could see into the darkness and absorb the starlight. I noticed through the bare trees colored lights twinkling in the darkness. The houses across the hollow have Christmas light up, cheerful and bright. I stand and gaze at them from afar until the chill creeps in. Joyful lights to brighten our hearts in the cold darkness of winter.
I waited for darkness to fall, to walk out among the decorated evergreen trees. They stand along the main drive leading to the grand entrance of the hotel. Although the Christmas lights have been on all day, I wanted to see them at night. Shining red, blue, green, yellow bulbs appearing to twinkle in the darkness as wind moves the branches. It is a dark night with drizzling rain weeping from low heavy clouds, no stars or moonlight. I wrap my pashmina scarf tightly around my head, shoulders, and neck and step into the sparkling wonderland under the trees. Looking up while I meander through the wet darkness, lost in the multi-colored swaying lights, swirling Christmas colors, like something from a childhood dream.