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.

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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!

Crescent Moon

3-13-2017

Walking around the house in the frozen dark with a basket of wet clean laundry in my arms, looking up at the night sky, bright with a zillion twinkling stars. Deepest black transparent void, pin pricked with tiny sparkling white lights from mind boggling distances away. Time and space have different dimensional meanings when gazing into the night sky. I make my way around to the front walk and the thinnest slice of moon peeks around the big hemlock tree. Blue white, glowing silver sliver hanging low, I wan to reach out and touch it. Crescent moon smiling down from her domain, and faintly outlined in a shimmering almost imagined perfect circle is the rest of her invisible shadowed body. I feel blessed by the simple pleasure of bathing in the singing moonlight.

Togetherness

3-5-2017

My husband and I were doing regular normal things that people do at home after work. The sun was setting over the western ridge across the hollow just as it does every evening. I happened to glance out the window and saw reflected in the car window pink and orange puffy clouds. I called out to Jonathan that a pretty sunset was happening and stepped outside on to the porch to watch. I often do this, because I enjoy Mother Nature’s magic show.  I was settling into one of the rocking chairs when he came out too. We sat together, side by side, rocking gently on the chilly evening air, quietly watching the spectacular display of long sun beams stretching through cumulus and cirrus clouds throwing bright colors all over the sky.  The sun dipped below the horizon, the colors grew fiercely intense, as if you could feel them , breath them in, and become a million incandescent shades of red and orange. A minute later the specter was all but gone!  Blue grey sky, grey clouds, cold night creeping in. Smiling and peaceful we went back inside. Sharing this sunset together was the joyous highlight of our day!

Cold Feet

3-3-2017

Woke up gently his morning, looked out the window into the half light. It was snowing, just started, small flakes falling straight down, barely beginning to cover the dead brown leaves on the forest floor. I stayed in bed watching the snow fall and the ground turn more white as the snow accumulated. Peaceful and beautiful.

Later, I went outside to feed the birds. The stairs were blanketed in a pure, fresh coating of snow maybe half an inch think, individual crystalline flakes catching and refracting the filtered, grey morning sunlight. The two bottom steps and the flagstone below had bird prints on them. Tiny, perfect, delicate, imprints of Chick-a-Dee’s and Junco’s feet, 3 miniature toes and claws, two feet, all in straight lines as they hopped around looking for seeds. How do they keep from freezing? My toes turn blue just thinking about running barefoot through the snow (although I do exactly that at least once a year, just to put my own foot prints in the snow!) These hardy little birds keep our indoor house cats (and me) entertained all year. Minuscule tracks in the snow, tiny hearts beating swiftly, warm blood coursing through wild wings, winter rages, and life perseveres!

Stars

3-1-2017

Driving home from dinner at a friend’s house, clear, dark, cold night. We traverse the mountain along a state highway that follows a path up and around a wide valley locally know as “The Bowl” because from the top, it looks to be completely surrounded by mountains, like a giant bowl dug into the earth. There are some astounding views from along this road. A hotel/ restaurant at the top boasts a 5 state panorama. There is a also scenic pull off about half way down, which always seems to have at least one car in it day or night. This night, my husband is driving, so I am leaning my head against the cold glass, gazing out into the dark void, watching solid black trees and leafless branches wiz by in a dizzying black blur against the open inky purple black sky, the stars flashing like tiny strobe lights. We climb higher, round a corner, and the whole bowl is open before me. The dazzling brilliance of millions of billions of twinkling stars sparkle my eyes. Breathtaking, stark, beauty startling my spirit into flight, zooming out and letting go into that wondrous empty nothingness. The luminescent stars and the open soft dark void of night the only two things that exist. I am the immense incalculable space between the stars, their glittering light shines through me from every direction across the universe, energizing all my atoms into higher planes of existence. The car rounds another bend and trees suddenly tangle my communication with the infinite. I sit breathless and smiling in the passenger seat.