Wilderness Winter

Last week’s cold snap made me cringe for the country—for the tropical fish and frozen oranges in Florida, for Cass and Paul waking up to a 26 degree Louisiana kitchen, for anyone attempting to vacation in Miami, for the startled people in North Carolina.

But for us? Some mornings the radio said we were the coldest spot in the country? Not so bad. It’s all in what a person expects. 30 below zero, ok that’s cold, it hurts the exposed flesh and nostrils, but sometimes it’s all part of the winter package. We have Under Armor (do not underestimate the effectiveness of that magical stuff)…we have face masks and mukluks and parkas….no problem. When it gets up to 10 below, we go out. So often it is sparkly sunny and still. Hard to describe to our Missouri friends. But we like it, so for now you don’t have to feel sorry for us.
Sometimes I wonder how to express it so people who call will understand that I’m not making it up.
Everybody gets the initial allure of snow—and childhood thrills, like the taste of snowflakes and Christmas cookies. The trout fishermen and the skiers—they need no convincing, they’re hooked too.
But believe me there is more.
Maybe I should tell you about the arctic air scrubbed with the icy cold. You can taste the purity, just like when you swim in the BWCA lakes, and the water that seeps into your mouth is cleaner than anything else. Not making it up. I LOVE it that the chill clears away any possibility of tropical termites and cockroaches. It clears the way for all but the heartiest residents and visitors.
Fresh air feels like a clean slate. Which is huge when you consider it. Bright Spring start. Can’t anticipate that, without the Winter.

The full moon—I give up on that one..because that’s impossible for me to even photograph, or detail the crunch of the footsteps when it is really snapping cold in the moonlight.

The other day, I tried to capture the gazillion glittering sparkles on the snow crystals—ALL OVER the lake. Couldn’t quite photograph that one either.

Can you feel the Complete Joy of this dog who has been cooped up too long—and finally gets out for a hike?

How about the way snow transforms familiar scenes. Spheres are especially pleasing, aren’t they? The afternoon sun setting. Or the blueness of the clear sky?

Or the calm when it is just starting to snow—so soft, so still. Denali and I have been skiing to Brant Lake…and the feeling of heading out into the silence, and knowing that there is almost no chance that we will see ONE person out there. Not one. There’s something rare and serene in that kind of solitude.
Andy and I followed fresh moose tracks for the entire Centennial Trail—apparently well traveled—(we have spotted a mother and two adolescents by the bus stop.)

But we couldn’t quite make sense of the moose party in the middle of the trail—just this one spot—what were they doing trampling all this??

Always, there is the contrast of life and death—the black standing trees, the snow frosting that lingers on the green branches, the angle of the sun. No winter bugs, and this is not insignificant.

There’s the refreshing feeling of coming inside, rosy and satisfied, where it is warm and cozy—that alone is worth the winter, isn’t it?

We get sick of it sometimes too, but lately, winter isn’t whipping in our faces. It’s tranquility. At least for that cold snap.

And this week, it’s up in the 20’s and 30’s—easy, balmy. I wish I could share it—even with a friend who wrote to me last week that she “was meant to live in the Caribbean.” I think–if she gave it a shot, she might like it too.

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3 Responses

  1. Dave Hines says:

    Just sitting a fire in Chicago , thinking of all the summers I spent at Tuscarora Outfitters from the age of 11 to 23 I either sent time in a cabin there or on a canoe trip out to Tuscarora. From the first trip with my family to the next 6 years with the Boy Scout, to taking my senior class trip there and 4 years with college buddies during the summer. I became guide a guide. I think I could still remember how to get to each camp site. I can remember how it change over the years. I remember how excited I was one year when the Gunflint trail went from a dirt road to a paved one, It made the 45 miles so much nicer. I’m thinking of taking my family this year on a real camping trip. I’m glad to see the lodge is still there. Stay warm see you in the summer.
    Dave Hines
    Chicago

  2. Hey Dave–really nice note, thanks! Let us know if we can help you with your real camping trip–or at any rate, please stop in and say hello. If you come after the 4th of July, you might want to visit the new Chikwauk Museum and Nature Center (http://www.gunflinttrailhistoricalsociety.org/chikwauk.html)…for some more reminiscing!

  3. little Jenny says:

    Guess who’s book I saw at the Barnes & Noble the other day? Yep, it was about how to become a Boundry Waters family. It made my world a little smaller.