Tag Archive 'snow'

Jan 07 2011

Profile Image of Walt

Deep In It

Filed under Blog Post

My dog Matika was restless so we had to do something.  Okay, maybe I was a little restless, too, having stayed indoors doing literary work for a week or more.  At any rate, we headed for Aldis Hill the other day despite the weather.

I had hoped for a daylong excursion in the mountains but a morning snow shower nixed that.  The prospect of a forty-minute, white-knuckle drive each way along greasy roads did not appeal to me.  Better to stay close to home and leave the bigger outing for a sunny day.  So I headed for the hill.

We hiked up Aldis Hill as a light snow shower tapered off to the occasional flurry.  Almost immediately I regretted not having a pair of Yaktrax with me –  a simple device that slips over each boot, providing traction on icy surfaces.  A couple inches of fresh snow concealed the hazardous conditions underfoot.  Last weekend’s melt-off had turned the hill into a great mound of ice.  Oh well.

Matika didn’t care.  She ran through the woods all smiles, as sure-footed as a mountain goat.  I hobbled along, paying more attention to where I stepped than to the surrounding snow-covered woods.  Near the top of the hill, I stopped long enough to enjoy the view eastward towards French Hill.  And that’s when it struck with full force:  deep in it now.  Deep into winter and there’s nothing to do now but endure.  A fortnight past the Solstice, the days are getting longer, yes, but it’ll be another month before that’s noticeable.  Until then it’s the deep freeze with long dark evenings, a lot of shoveling, and difficult driving.

Descending the hill was even more treacherous than ascending it.  I caught myself wishing for a lot more snow so that I could break out my snowshoes.  That’s how woods walkers like me embrace winter.  Those whose moods run closer to the surface glide down slopes on skis, but some of us would rather slog along, sinking half a foot into the white stuff with each step.    What the hell, if it’s going to be winter we might as well be waist-deep in it.

Matika doesn’t care.  Winter, spring, summer or fall, it’s all good to her.  Dogs are even better than children at being in the moment.  But I am more than half a century old, think too much, and am always looking ahead.  So I dream of warmer, sunnier days even as the cool, fresh air fills my lungs.

Comments Off on Deep In It

Dec 23 2010

Profile Image of Walt

Snowy Woods

Filed under Blog Post

A week ago I went for a walk in the woods a few hours after a winter storm had ended.  About four inches of the white stuff had fallen and some of it was still clinging to the trees.  A bright sun blazed through a mostly blue sky at midday.  I trudged along, kicking up snow with each step as my dog Matika leaped joyously through the virgin powder.  All the while the wild shouted a deafening silence.

A barred owl swept through the woods, hooting once it had landed somewhere out of sight.  Then a crow.  Then a chickadee.  Otherwise Matika and I had the woods all to ourselves.  She fell upon a set of squirrel tracks, but the squirrel was long gone.  I brushed the snow off a downed tree then sat down for a while to groove on my surroundings.  With not a wisp of wind blowing, the woods remained absolutely still.

As anyone who has read my blogs knows, I am not a big fan of winter.  But this was one of those outings that gave some credence to the myth perpetuated by ski resort marketing departments and 20th Century poets like Robert Frost.  You know what I’m talking about: a winter wonderland and all that.  Well, on rare occasion New England actually lives up to the advertisement, and even a summer-loving guy like me can’t help but enjoy the dazzling beauty of a brown and white landscape on a sunny day.  In the icy, gray hills of central Ohio where I grew up, there was no such thing.

Since then, another winter storm has come and gone dropping even more snow.  Today I spent a good deal of time shoveling it.  Tomorrow probably I’ll do the same, after a big sheet of it avalanches off my roof.  I could complain about my aching back, etc. but I think I’ll give it a rest.  Instead I’ll stand in my driveway after dusk, admiring the way that freshly fallen snow brightens the landscape even in darkness, and count being a Vermonter among my blessings.  In this part of the world, I don’t have to dream of a white Christmas.  It’s practically guaranteed.

Comments Off on Snowy Woods

Dec 09 2010

Profile Image of Walt

Winter Arrives

Filed under Blog Post

It happened while I was busy getting ready for the holidays and my wife’s upcoming birthday.  Winter arrived, just like that.  The inch or two of snow that the weather forecasters promised us turned into a foot, and I spent the better part of a day shoveling it.  Then temps suddenly dropped into the teens.  Oh sure, the Winter Solstice is still two weeks away, but there is no doubt here in the North Country that winter has already arrived.

While tossing a ball for my dog at dusk, I noticed the brown remnants of my flower garden sticking up through the snow.  I usually cut them back before the snow flies.  How did that simple task escape me this year?  Like I said, I’ve been busy lately.  Very busy.  It’s becoming a bad habit, actually.  I cram too much into any given day.  I try too hard to make each day count, and they fly by all the same.

I like the way the flower remnants look against the snow, especially as the last light fades.  I don’t particularly like the way the frigid air stings my face, but I know I’ll get used to it.  I put on my thermals today.  It seems a little premature for thermals, but it is that time of year.

The UPS guy just dropped off a proof copy of a book for me to review.  That’s one more thing demanding my attention – one of a half dozen literary projects that I currently have in the works.  Like I said, I’ve been very busy lately.  Maybe too busy.  When is there time to stop and smell the roses?  Right now, only the dried stems of roses protrude above the snow.

My dog lives in the moment.  She plows through the snow, chasing the ball as if it’s the only thing that matters.  While tossing the ball for her, I catch myself thinking about what I’ve accomplished today and making plans for tomorrow.  I’m too busy to lose myself in the moment as she does.  And to be perfectly honest, I barely notice the cold north wind blowing my way.

Winter arrives and I turn inward in more ways than one.  Winters are long here in the North Country, so it’s easy to get lots of indoor projects done.  Yet times like these, when I’m outside and looking around, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to appreciate nature in winter the way I do during the warm season.  Probably not, but I’d sure would like to try someday.

Comments Off on Winter Arrives

Dec 02 2010

Profile Image of Walt

Chasing the Light

Filed under Blog Post

Sunlight breaks through the leafless trees at midday – a welcome sight for light-hungry eyes after so many gray days.  Now there’s nothing but blue sky overhead.  I amble along the well-groomed trail, not wandering far away from it, respecting the No Trespassing signs posted on both sides.  Yet my eyes steal southward all the same, chasing the light.  It’s a precious commodity this time of year, when the sun rises so reluctantly and sets all too soon.

A storm front passed through the region a few days ago, leaving a dusting of snow on the ground.  Usually the first snowfall melts off right away, but this one is lingering as if to remind folks that it’s December.  Those of us sensitive to light need no such reminder.

Air temperatures fluctuate, thus determining what kind of precipitation falls, but daylight remains ever faithful to the calendar.  Its slow, steady march through the seasons is deeply comforting in a world as tumultuous and unpredictable as ours.  All the same, the next few weeks of diminishing days are hard on those of us who thrive on light.  We won’t rest easy until we’re on the other side of the Winter Solstice.

I’ve often wondered if I would be so drawn to the Great Outdoors if I didn’t need the light so much.  In summertime I revel in it.  In the winter, the shortness of the day forces me outside.  People tell me that there are vampires among us who need the darkness as much as I need the light, but I find that hard to believe.  Daylight, direct or indirect, is essential to all living things.  Who can go long without it?

Here in the North Country, there are those who string up artificial lights in order to keep the darkness at bay.  Others drag bits of greenery into their houses to remind themselves that the growing season will return.  Still others try to ignore nature’s signals, keeping themselves busy with indoor or outdoor activities, or elaborate holiday preparations.  Every year I find myself resorting to all these strategies.  But that doesn’t change the realities of light – what it does to us over time.  So the best thing we can do is just roll with it, letting nature take its course.  Eventually, the Earth’s axis will tilt as far away from the Sun as it can, then change its attitude.  All we have to do is endure.

Comments Off on Chasing the Light

Jan 13 2009

Profile Image of Walt

Snow Country

Filed under Blog Post

People living south of the border (the VT/MA state line, that is) are always surprised when I tell them that I don’t ski.  They think that’s what Vermont is all about.  I tried the sport once but didn’t much care for it.  I get out and snowshoe occasionally but am not as excited about that I as once was.  No, I hunker down during winter for the most part, focusing in on my literary work.  I wait for the other seven months of the year to roll around, when I can feel the earth underfoot and walking is easy.

Whether one skis or not, there’s no denying that Vermont is snow country.  It’s not unusual to get a hundred inches of the white stuff during a season here in the Champlain Valley and lot more than that falls on the mountains.  Oh sure, much of it melts off when the sun shines, but snow generally covers the ground from early December until the end of March.  So you’d better like it if you want to live here.

Do I like snow?  Let’s just say I’ve grown accustomed to it.  Growing up in central Ohio, I endured months of relentless gray skies and freezing rain.  By comparison, snow is much easier to contend with, especially on one of those blue-sky days like yesterday when the sun illuminates the frosty landscape.  A day like that can make even the crankiest, ice-hating curmudgeon believe that Vermont is a winter wonderland.

Shoveling snow is another matter, though.  I’ve noticed that those who like snow the most have Thule racks on their cars and usually bolt for the slopes after a winter storm has dumped a half foot or so.  You rarely see them shoveling out their driveways in full skiing regalia – that’s what the plows on the front of pickups are for.  But us poorer folk cringe at cost of snow plowing, so we resort to snow blowers or do it by hand.  It’s good exercise, we tell ourselves.  And that it is, for sure.

I pant and grunt as I push the snow around.  I often groan when I toss a particularly heavy load onto a five-foot snow pile.  I curse when my shovel catches on a knot of ice, wrenching my shoulder.  I sweat no matter what I wear and usually have ice encrusted in my beard when I finish.  A blast of cold air whips out of the northwest and I curse again.  Then my goofy dog, Matika, looks up from the hole she has dug in a snow pile and I can’t help but laugh.  Her furry face is even more ice-encrusted than mine, but she couldn’t be happier.  I stop shoveling long enough to toss her red ball a few times and she leaps through the snow like a snowbound dolphin.  Then the sun comes out again.

Being a Vermonter doesn’t mean playing in the snow all the time, but somehow we learn to live with it.  Hat, gloves and a heavy winter coat are essential.  A decent pair of snow boots can completely reverse one’s outlook on the season.  A little time spent outdoors sets one up for that commonplace moment when wild nature beams a frigid smile.  So when the weather forecasters threaten us with a Nor’easter that’s sure to dump a foot or more, we check our shovels to make sure they aren’t broken and say: “Bring it on!”  The more snow we get, the more we have to brag about.

2 responses so far

« Newer Posts