Archive for December, 2012

Dec 31 2012

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Cutting Tracks in the Snow

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“Let me know when you are ready,” I said to Judy as we lounged in our living room reading the Sunday newspaper online. The wind was howling in the distance. I was hellbent upon going out and cutting fresh tracks in the snow but Judy was balking. So I was surprised when she came down the stairs all dressed to go before I had even moved from my chair.

Our dog Matika didn’t hesitate. She jumped into the car the second I opened the door. She didn’t care that the thermometer registered twenty degrees below freezing. “Let’s go!” her body language said as she flashed a big, canine smile.

An overnight storm had added another four inches to the foot of snow dumped a few days earlier. Conditions haven’t been this good for snowshoeing in nearly two years.

We cut tracks in virgin snow while enjoying the peace and quiet of the wintry woods. Conifers heavily laden with white stuff provided ample cover from the wind. Our morning trek couldn’t have been more delightful. The energy we burned while tamping down the deep powder kept us warm enough.

Matika made us laugh as she romped through the snow. She buried her head in it whenever she caught the scent of some passing creature. Judy and I stopped several times to catch our breath and marvel at the simple beauty of the white world all around us. Even to a lover of green things like myself, nature in winter has its appeal.

By the time we got back to the car, Judy’s toes were half numb, I had rime in my beard, and Matika’s paws had iced up. Still it was fun. Hot chocolate and a warm bath took the chill away. And we thoroughly enjoyed being indoors for the rest of the day.


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Dec 18 2012

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Darkness and Light

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We spend half our waking hours in the dark this time of year. Not so much an issue when we’re indoors, but outside we sure notice it. So it’s nice to see the colored lights strung everywhere. They’re festive. More importantly, they diminish the impact of darkness in early winter, making it easier to tolerate.

Even though I’m no big fan of Christmas, I put lights on my house. I like seeing them there when I come home from work late at night. They make me smile no matter what kind of day I’ve had.

Pagans dragged trees into their houses and celebrated the Winter Solstice with light long before Christians hijacked the holiday. It makes sense, really. Why not light a candle on the darkest day of the year? No sense sitting in the dark and whining about it.

Winter is just beginning. There’s a month lag between the shortest day of the year and the meteorological middle of this season. Yeah, that means the temperatures drop even as the days lengthen in January. Then it’s another two-month crawl out of winter – here in northern New England, anyhow. That’s a dismal prospect for those of us who neither ski nor snowmobile. Oh sure, I’ve polyurethaned my snowshoes and will break them out when the first big dump of the white stuff occurs. But I do so reluctantly. I much prefer the greener half of the year.

Forget about summertime. The Winter Solstice is upon us. Boil up water for tea or hot chocolate, revel in the indoor warmth and light, and surround your self with friends and loved ones. Plenty of time for dark thoughts later. ‘Tis the season. What the hell, why not take whatever pleasure you can from it?


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Dec 04 2012

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Shortly after Thanksgiving, I shoveled snow from my driveway for the first time this year. That was something of a surprise. But the snow that fell a couple days ago came with ample warning. I went out to Indian Brook Reservoir to greet it. Some things are best tackled head on.

In winter mode now, I wear hat, gloves and several layers of thermals and wools when I go into the woods. The days of t-shirt hiking are gone, along with all the fresh vegetation. That’s okay. I still have fresh air and the evergreens to sustain me.

With few exceptions, conifers keep their color during the winter. To eyes as hungry for green as mine are, that is no small matter. I find myself gravitating to them even though they block out much-needed daylight. I find myself drawn to their natural beauty, especially when they are highlighted by snow. Clearly I’m not alone in this sentiment. Even those who aren’t devout Christians are dragging evergreen trees into their homes. Their evergreen-ness consoles us.

Turning a corner at Indian Brook Reservoir, I caught a copse of conifers backlit by grey light as the snow fell. It took my breath away. There is the invigorating joy of the first lily in the spring, the lush happiness of full summer, and the burnt orange delight of autumn, but the snow-laced evergreens of early winter are something else. A walk through them and suddenly I am contemplating the mystical. The interplay of green and white – of shadow and light – excites my imagination, making me wonder how this world came to be. The earth tilted on its axis and circling the sun isn’t the whole story. Surely something else is at work here.


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