Monday, January 2, 2017

Random Winter

Throughout the year we hear coyotes.
They surround us.
They cry to each other across the desert - packs that live on Rattlesnake Butte just on the outskirts of town crying to packs that live on Cedar Butte and Big Butte many miles away, and that all roam the desert in search of food, water, mates.
One roamed the desert alone for a good part of the summer and we saw him often - just on the outskirts of town and running until he got lost among the sage and grasses during his return to the desert.
Standing alone in the middle of the desert and then simply sitting and watching us as we watched him in return.
By fall he was gone.  
Possibly adopted into one of the packs.
Possibly this one.  Laying dead just on the outskirts of town a few months ago.
Frozen and laying still among the growth underneath a tree along the back road, just as the snow was beginning to fall.................... 

We have so much snow now.
Our fourth winter in SE Idaho and without a doubt the most snow we have seen so far.
Early in December it snowed heavily for a day, and then closer to Christmas it snowed heavily for three straight days.
Every few days now it snows a little, each time adding one more frozen layer to the frozen meat locker that we now call home...................
This is far and away my favorite time of year.
It is beautiful here now.
The snow smooths out all the rough edges of this little community in the desert - laying a blanket of snow and frozen ice crystals over every piece of town, both cared for and not.
All the downed beams, forgotten vehicles, carelessly rolled up hoses, abandoned campers, low income and in-poor-taste yard art, all of it.
A white pureness that settles for the season on the roofs of nice homes and not-so-nice homes.
On the fences and in the trees.
In the winter the snow soothes the savage beast that is Atomic City.
Making frozen still lifes out of every piece of this desert town.
The desert in winter is a wondrous place.
Gone are the spring wild flowers and green grass.
Gone as the hundreds of different variations of brown that this place becomes as spring transitions into summer and the snow and rain transition into endless hot and dry days.
In its place is a starkness that is completely compelling.
The endless landscape looks even more vast.
Uninterrupted white as far as the eye can see.
Skies that vary from day to day - alternating between complete blue and complete grey.
Sometimes the frozen mist is so absolute that it is impossible to see 20 feet in front of you.
The buttes disappear in the mist.
The world disappears in the mist.
And the silence is wonderful.................
One day last winter I was snow shoeing on BLM land and Kory was with me.
As I lumbered in my snowshoes my puppy happily danced and pranced her way through the deep snow.
I followed one trail (blazing the trail with my snow shoes as I went) and at the end of the first trail I took a right turn and picked up one more trail.
Instead of staying on trail Kory danced through the snow as she is compelled to do, but generally she had been following my direction.
At the end of the first trail she jumped through the snow across country and stood on top of a small rise surveying this new white world of hers.
I watched her for a few minutes and then called to her, expecting that my dog would turn and head back towards me.
Instead, she ran over the back side of the rise and disappeared.
I called to her for a few minutes before realizing that my dog was gone.
Surely she hadn't gone too far - the snow was too deep for her to wander far.
Wasn't it??
A few more minutes and I finally accepted the fact that my dog was indeed gone and that I was gong to have to blaze trail through the snow and try and find her.
Sighing deeply I looked across the vast white sea of land and knew that it would take at least 10 minutes for me to even get to the rise where she had disappeared.
Calling to her the entire time I reached the rise and looked out over the desert.
Nothing but white.
Nothing at all but white as far as I could see in all directions.
And no dog.
I could see for at least a mile or more, and in the whiteness of the desert I was a little stunned that there was no sight of a red dog.
Where the hell WAS she???
By then I had transitioned from disgust to worry.
The desert looked so different from what she was used to.
A straight line of low lying cloud cover completely obscured Cedar and Big Buttes.
Suddenly I was worried (with no familiar terrain and no buttes to navigate from) that my dog would get turned around and just wander deeper into the desert.
 With so much snow, if she DID wander further into the desert LC and I would have a hard time searching for her.
I called LC and explained the situation and asked him to head down to Big Butte Rd - to watch for her as he traveled down that way and to pick up a trail off Big Butte Rd and call her from there.
I would continue snow shoeing further into the desert.
At every rise I stopped and scanned the frozen desert, fully expecting to see a tired red dog at any moment.
And at every rise I was disappointed.
I could hear LC a mile or more away from me beeping the horn of the truck, hoping that would get her attention if she truly was lost and disoriented.
Over an hour after Kory first disappeared over the rise close to the trail I had been trudging along, I finally spotted a red dot in the distance that was heading my way.
After calling LC I stood and watched as my dog broke through the deep snow with every step.
She was tired.
Even as far away as I was from her I could see that she was exhausted.
When she finally reached me, she collapsed at my feet, tired and out-of-breath.
Squatting down, I rubbed my dog on top of her beautiful furry head and then rubbed her ears, and quietly talked with her while she caught her breath and rested.
Just happy to see her safe and happy to have her back.
When she was ready to go again I called LC and asked him to meet me on the road by the trail head.
Before I hung up I warned him that it would take me at least 30 minutes to get back to the road.
Kory looked very cute deliberately walking in my snow shoe tracks as we slowly made our way home.
But on that day I decided that I would not walk on BLM land with Kory in the dead of winter anymore.
It was just too much work to track her down if she decided to wander and too dangerous if we couldn't find her.
And so............we spend a lot of time walking the roads on the outskirts of town through the winter.
She can still play in the snow, but her desire to return to the ploughed road ensures that she doesn't wander too far from me......................
A couple of weeks ago - on a very clear and absolutely freezing early evening I looked out the front window, realized that the sun was beginning to set, and made the instant decision to walk to the back of town and see if I could catch the sunset.
As I pulled on winter boots, jacket, neck gaiter, hat and gloves my dog stood up from behind the wood stove where she had been sleeping and looked at me expectantly.
That sweet, beautiful, hopeful face.
Waiting until the last possible moment (so I didn't have to listen to hysterical barking) I walked to the front door, turned and looked at my dog and said "well...........come on!"
Instantly in rapturous joy she ran to me and I struggled to hook her leash to her collar, as my excited dog danced in circles around me.
And together we wandered in the silence, the freezing cold, and the beautiful evening..............
It had taken until early afternoon for the watery sun to break through and burn off the frozen mist that had enveloped our town the previous freezing cold night.
Only a few hours later - as the sun was beginning to set - the frozen mist was already creeping across the desert and heading our way.....................
Each solstice is a domain of experience unto itself. At the Summer Solstice, all is green and growing, potential coming into being, the miracle of manifestation painted large on the canvas of awareness. At the Winter Solstice, the wind is cold, trees are bare and all lies in stillness beneath blankets of snow...........Author Unknown

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