Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wonder And Admiration In Winter

The west got slapped up side the head. 
And then much of the rest of the country got slapped up side the head.
One day it was fifty degrees and the next day the temperature gauge outside the living room window told me that the temperature was 4 degrees.
With the wind chill the temperature was -21.
The endless blue skies and sunshine of the previous few days was an instant and now seemingly distant memory.
The sky was grey, the buttes close to us, and the mountains 30 miles from us, were gone.
Lost in the endless grey that had suddenly enveloped Atomic City and that seemed to have cut us off from the rest of the entire world.
There was no snow.  Just an outdoors that overnight had turned so cold that it was too cold even to walk with my pup.
The wind was crazy strong.  
I could bundle against the cold, but there was only so much that I could do to protect from the freezing and biting wind.
On that first frozen day my dog was climbing the walls and letting her run for short periods of time in the back yard wasn't cutting it.
Me getting dressed promised a walk.  Putting shoes on to work out on an elliptical promised a walk.  Walking briefly out to the garage promised a walk.  Going to the woodshed to get wood for the fire promised a walk. 
She followed me everywhere I wandered in and around the house, waiting patiently and then impatiently for me to reach for the leash and set her free from the familiar bondage of her house so that she and we could wander town together.
By late afternoon I could no longer put her off.
Bundling up heavily from head to toe I finally reached for Korys' leash that hangs from a hook beside the front door.
My hysterical dog jumped higher than my head in excitement.
We were out for all of 15 minutes before I quickly turned and headed back towards the house.
Considering the conditions, I had managed OK.
Only the tops of my legs and my nose and cheeks were frozen.
The rest had held up just fine.
The next day was also freezing and we played the same game all over again.
No baby.  Not yet.
No babe.
Sigh.  OK...........let's give it a shot.
On the third day I woke up, climbed out of bed, sleepily walked into the living room, opened the curtains and smiled.
It was 15 degrees.
And it was snowing.
Walking into the kitchen I pulled open the curtains, reached for my camera and (still half asleep) snapped the picture above before turning my attention to the coffee pot......................
With the wood stove working overtime, as it had been doing for the previous couple of days, we three desert rats hunkered down in the house while it snowed lightly but consistently throughout the day.
By late afternoon, and with little more than an hour of daylight remaining, I was playing the same game that Kory had been playing.
Desperate to walk, eager for some fresh air, eager to wander in the snow.
The snow fall had stopped for a while, although the forecast promised more overnight, more the next day, and more the next night, and with little day left I finally grabbed my boots and hat and scarf and jacket and mitts and camera and cell phone.
As I layered one piece of clothing after another on, bundling up against the cold, I smiled at my sweet girl as she paced and sat close to me and then paced some more.
Bright eyes shining and silently pleading with me to hurry up already.
As soon as we barged out the front door I looked around me and smiled.
It was still cold outside but the wind had settled down completely.
The late afternoon and early evening was dead calm and dead silent.
As winter always is in this tiny, do nothing, know nothing, community in the middle of nowhere................
After so many months of seasons other than winter, I had forgotten what it felt like to walk in snow.
It was not too deep.  Maybe a couple of inches.
And as I silently trudged through the snow I remembered what it felt like to walk in snow again.
It was like walking in sand.
Take a step and slide a few inches back.  
Take a step and slide a few inches back.
Working the legs in a way that takes getting used to after months of walking on gravel roads.
Kory excitedly walked and I excitedly looked around me, pleased to see what the world looked like after the first round of snow.
The world looked beautiful...............
We wandered down every street in town, breaking the trail.
We were the first to travel these roads.
No-one else had ventured outside yet, either on foot or in a vehicle, and there was some sense of unspeakable satisfaction that Kory and I were the first to interrupt the virgin, untouched roads in this small town.
It was our first snowfall of the year, and as with walking in the snow, I had also forgotten how the town looked in the snow.
Everything seemed to blend together as one.
There was no park, no yards, no driveways, no road.
Just an endless and uninterrupted sea of white.
God I love winter.
It is the most beautiful, most magical, most artistic and most adventurous season of the year.
It smooths out every single rough edge that this town has.
And bathes it in beauty
After I snapped this picture I stood in the middle of the road, turned to look down at Kory who was intently investigating a snow covered rock, and then looked back over this section of town.
I smiled again at the thought of the residents who had already blown out of town for the winter.
They were now down in places such as Arizona and Texas, happy to escape from winter in Idaho.
I smiled because I was happy to be spending winter in Idaho...................
All the buttes and all the mountains were gone.
Temporarily lost in a wall of grey mist.
As we reached a trail head in back of town I briefly debated whether to stay on the gravel (now snow covered gravel) roads and continue wandering in town, or pick up the trail and walk it over to the far side of town closer to the house.
The debate was very brief.
I could hear them but could not see them, and they sounded close.
They were everywhere - I could hear them at both ends of the trail and they sounded extremely animated.
Howling, yapping, barking, one pack talking to another pack.
We would stay in town................
Walking the entire length of the road in back of town (the one that borders BLM land) I looked up and was surprised to see the deer.
They were still too far away for me to be able to see how many of them there were, but it looked like a good sized herd.
They were clustered together, and even from this distance I could see that THEY had already seen me and Kory.............
They were all clustered together on a trail that Kory and I walked often.
Kory and I were still trudging through the snow on the back road, and for a long time the deer stood motionless.
Watching us intently.
Suddenly three or four broke from the herd and ran further up the trail.
They were at least half a mile away from us, so deer breaking from the safety of the herd surprised me.
Curious to see if the rest would also break into a run, I slowed our pace down and watched them intently.
The remainder of the beautiful deer seemed content to stay where they were.
The coyotes continued to howl and bark all around them, lost in the grey mist of the winter desert...............
Eventually they all began to run.
They were heading along the trail and running further onto BLM land and I stood and watched them, quietly counting them.
There were sixteen in total.
Two big bucks and fourteen does.
There were three younger bucks traveling together in town through the summer and as I watched the deer I wondered where the three young males had gone.
I had not seen them in many months.
I thought at first that they were spooked by the presence of me and Kory, but once they had clustered together again I realized that they were not focused on us at all.
They were looking into the mist.
Listening to the coyotes..............
I stood watching the deer for a long time.
Kory and I wandered to the trail head on this side of town and I snapped the picture above before turning and heading back to the roads.
It was cold.
I was cold.
It was time to begin heading towards the house.
My three favorite old trucks.
Old, rusted, silent and seemingly abandoned trucks that have sat unmoving for at least as long as we have been in Atomic City, and who knows how long before that................
It was a slow walk home.
Kory was intent on keeping her nose to the ground, seemingly intent on sniffing out whatever was hidden in the snow.
It was her walk as well, and I gave her all the time she needed...................
In the back yard at the house.
I cannot say exactly why, but this stupid little bear has traveled with us all over the country................
We had some left over cans of paint that I mixed together only a few days before the temperatures dropped and so did the snow.
It is not a good color, but I slapped a coat of paint on our ski-top picnic table anyway, hoping that  
it would protect the table through the winter.............
He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.... In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.................John Burroughs

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