The air was heavy, wet, and just above freezing when the giant flakes started down Sunday night; while the weather forecast a few inches it felt bigger, more ominous. By midnight the road was lost in a white veil when it was time for bed. The lights flickered at 4 am and went dark; at six it came back on and then with a flash in the distance as a transformer exploded it was gone twenty minutes later. Thankfully there was time to make coffee. The unfrozen and sodden ground gives roots little purchase and in the morning the sound of falling trees along with breaking limbs beats a slow rhythm in the morning.
While the teens slept I tried on skis not used in nearly a decade and went out to explore, awkward and jerky. The snow covered my hands and hair; giant spider webs dissolving upon contact. From my North Eastern childhood it reminded me of the early snow falls; between Thanksgiving and Christmas the iron gray sky would pour forth white, to cover barren trees and brown grass. In Oregon it is closer to Easter but we haven’t had snow like this in my time here and it is new and fresh, covering the fields and the remains of the old chicken coop I just tore apart the day before.
After sliding down the driveway and getting back the rhythm of kick, glide, kick, glide across the field, remembering to bend at the knees I pause to look across the valley; “Delight Valley” is the local name and in the morning quiet it is truly that. It is strange I never learned to cross-country ski in a place it actually snows with regularity, but it’s true. I missed out on two good decades of “land skating” to come west and travel up a mountain to find snow to do it. And getting to ski out from my door seems almost magical. My own previous life might seem magic now; what is “Snowpocolpse” in Oregon is “any given Sunday in winter” in Vermont. The trees are equally unused to the load and the silence is interspersed with pops and crashes. Many oak limbs land across my fields and a plum tree is split before the snow fades. Many power poles were likewise unready and we may be without power for a week.
I started this as the snow fell and set it all aside to deal with the realities of winter in the land of eternal spring rain: no power for ten days, meaning no water either. Downed trees, plowing a thousand feet of driveway- if you have ever wondered why those cute Vermont houses are so often at the front of the property, it because snow is heavy and hard to move. Now the crusty ends of it lay in the shade of trees and hollows. The event proved a powerful reminder of how unprepared we are for actual disasters; getting the wood stove hooked up is now my number one home task. But along with the stress of caring for four children without power while working a hundred miles from home when the goats started kidding on the coldest March night on record there was joy; a long silent friendship with my cross-country skis renewed.
The last day of work I end up, skis in car a thousand feet and 60 miles from home at lunch time. The snow is heavy but granular, the skis edged and cambered for the task. For an hour we glide along in amiable quiet. I think of all the times I considered parting with them for lack of use, the number of times I moved them (four) begrudging them space in dark corners and their weight and awkwardness. Not all efforts are so well repaid. The road still covered in a foot of snow winds around a reservoir as the Cascade afternoon winds blow and clouds course over a deeply hued sky. For an hour the piled laundry, messy kitchen and broken screws on the wood stove are on hold as I immerse in the sound of skis on unbroken snow, the vista of mountains covered in snow and the late day light of winter on the eve of spring. Just as much as it is important to deal with the problems of daily life, it is essential to enjoy the moments; life’s tasks hold little value if the moments pass unheeded.
kick, glide, kick, glide….