Saturday, December 19, 2009
why I'm here
Inspiration runs short these days as my attention turns from one idea to the next. I jot down notes, try to start things, ponder, read. I barely notice we're losing seconds each day as we near the solstice, followed by the welcome, but slow, return of the light. This week I was shoveling snow for three days running, trying to keep up with it as the white stuff piled up in the driveway.
On Wednesday, I snowshoed at the neighborhood park among the trees bent over under the weight of frost, then inches of snow, wondering how much weight they can handle before they break. Unless, that is, a big wind comes first.
Friday, on the snowshoes with my friend Corinne before she heads south for the holidays. Around zero degrees, we followed paths previously packed by others on foot or bike, tromping down the fresh powder on trails familiar or new. Too cold for me to want to pull my camera from my bag, we stop in the sunshine that's peaking over a hill from a low angle. It provides no discernible warmth. Corinne takes a few photos, then we move on, weaving through the trees, following a half-dozen paths, yet meeting no other people.
And Saturday, studying the weather around town: still cold down low, warmer up high - but windy. Yes, the wind. Is 15 and windy better than one degree and calm? My friend Jo-Ann and I head up, just beyond the foothills, near the mountains' bases.
On skis up the main trail, bunching my fingers inside my mittens to warm them while still holding the poles. Snow on the bridge, even packed down, is nearly a foot high. We head uphill. Finally, at the turnoff, Jo-Ann drops onto the trail that winds trough the trees. It's just wide enough for us on skis. I start after her, push out and into my heels to keep from going too fast on the tight corners. My gaitors skim the sides of the snowy trench.
The snow alongside the trail is almost too deep for our poles. I have to push through two feet of powder to find something to push off from, but by then the tips of the poles are well behind me so I kick and glide down toward the creek while my poles stay mostly above the snow. I use them for balance.
It's colder by the creek, the lowest part of the trail, the sink where cold air rests. We climb out of the valley, round a corner and are back in the wind. The sun is setting to the south - barely southwest. It's 3:40. The sunset provides the only variation in color besides my gear, Jo-Ann's hat. As the light dims, we glide down the final hill, veer onto a snowshoe track and are back at the parking lot.
Frost on my hair and hat. Eyes sore from the cold dryness of the air. Nose a little tender.
As we near the shortest day of the year here in the north country, when sleeping in a warm bed sometimes is the most pleasant activity I can think to do, I'm grateful I have the energy to get out into the woods and friends who are willing to join me when self-described reasonable people would opt to stay home. Do people still wonder why I live here?