Does this landscape look inviting for an afternoon stroll?

Does this landscape look inviting for an afternoon stroll?

Let’s set the scene.  Inside the house the wood-stove hums in the basement.  It’s warm and cozy and toasty.  Heavy blankets hang against our deck and basement windows, encasing the heat.  Sun glimmers through other windows, creating patterns on the rug.  Water boils in the tea kettle.  A pot of pinto beans simmer on the stove.

Outside it’s 12 degrees.  The wind blows snow sideways, capturing it, gyrating it into mini whirlwinds.  It’s a blustery wind, a fierce wind, a vicious wind.  It’s whirled in from the north with ferocity, banishing temperatures in the 40’s.  The weathermen lower their voices, using phrases like “wind chill warning” and “advisory”. 

Take heed.  Do not venture out unprotected.  Who wants to hazard out at all with such a cozy inside world?  Unless one has a commitment to spend time each and every day outside.  Then one must enter that white and blowing world.

And of course, as always, it’s not as terrible as the Mind has conjured.  Allow the feet to guide you wherever they want to go.  And it’s OK if you return to the house to warm up.  Just go outside again for your allotted time.

Lightening snow shadow  (OK, it's a tree)

Lightening snow shadow (OK, it's a tree)

Snow shadows never cease to fascinate.  I never really noticed them as vividly until this winter.  No two shadows look alike.  They have a personality almost separate from their physical counterpart.  A shadowed world exists with vague look-alike caricatures parroting solid reality.  Watch out!  You never know where a shadow is lurking…and what it might try to communicate.

Trees speak their own language, one mostly unintelligible to us humans.  We must listen very slowly to even catch the edges of what oak or poplar or maple or spruce might whisper.  Every once in a while they communicate in hieroglyphics.  I almost know what this fallen log, stretched over a frozen stream in our ravine, attempts to say.  Any ideas?

Hieroglyphics:  language beneath bark

Hieroglyphics: language beneath bark

The snow spoke today.  In no language we’d understand verbally it said:  walk on my back.  You won’t sink in!  The Moon of the Crusted Snow sits fat and white in the night sky, providing ease for local folks tapping maple trees for sweet syrup.  No sap runs today.  One waits for ideal conditions (cold nights and warm days?  or warm days and cold nights?) and the inner sap-life of the tree begins to swim in the veins and corpuscles, moving outwards towards its dream of summer leaves.  The sap drips into buckets pegged on trees, or into lines attached together, until it’s finally boiled fiercely to sweeten our cookies, our grain, our pancakes.

Precious cedar for kindling

Precious cedar for kindling

I walked by these cedar logs in the driveway and thought about last weekend.  I was jabbering away on the phone to someone, probably my daughter, when a knock rapped on the door.  A fellow from across the Keweenaw Bay stood, shifting his weight from foot to foot.  He wanted to know if my husband was home.  “No,” I said, but he was already nodding, “Yep, bet he’s out fishin’.”

That husband of mine has a reputation.  Of course he was out fishing. 

“I brought him some cedar,” he said.

Brought him cedar?  What?  The fellow turned back toward his truck.  I tossed the phone on the table and scurried after him a bit. “Do we owe you any money?” I called.

“No,” he said, “I was out in the area.  The logs on the log truck were from my property, I’m just delivering some cedar for kindling to go with it.”  (As some of you know, we bought a load of logs a couple weeks ago.)

Amazing!  I thanked him profusely and retrieved the phone.  I am sometimes awed and amazed at the kindness and giving-ness of folks.  People who stand ready to offer a hand, to share, to help.  That’s one of the best parts of living in a rural area.  There’s angels like this fellow, giving of himself, without asking anything in return.  May he be blessed…