Is it the Northern European and Highlander blood romping wildly through my veins? And that bit o’ Japanese blood found cavorting there; clearly it must hail from one of that island country’s many mountain ranges. For I cannot deny, nor would I want to, that I am a woman in love … with winter.
In the summertime, I hold my breath until it rains. Here, there are long stretches of time during which nothing wet falls from the clouds. If we are lucky enough to have any clouds. I grow bored of the blue-on-blue backdrop, the scorched and arid air. It is not very interesting. And then there are the rampant wildfires with that angry, maraschino cherry of a sun.
When summer finally ends, I am pleased as punch to see it retreat in a cowardly and vapid puff of dust. Good riddance to friable rubbish! And should 55⁰F still feel downright chilly, burr, go grab a sweater. Start adding to your coffers of rounds and splits and kindling. Chastise yourself repeatedly for not worrying about your firewood needs earlier in the season, like you always plan to do. Worry about it, get over it and then get on it. It will warm you up.
Graciously by mid-September, the days have cooled and the nights are chill. Soppy stuff falls from the gathering clouds in big, fat, confident dollops. A little more time passes and October clip-clops in, riding in his pumpkin carriage — no glass slippers here! And thank my Lucky Stars, snuggling up to October, draped in puffy white fleece and sucking on purple popsicles, is the delirious Promise of Winter.
Firewood has been split and carefully stacked under cover. Chimneys and stovepipes cleaned by the man who travels way up here from way down-valley, wearing a stovepipe hat and with a smudge of ash on his pointy nose. I stop holding my breath and release an overdue and hearty sigh, a sigh that looks like my papa’s pipe smoke spiraling upward in the Jack Frost air.
Praise Earl, god of weather, two-dog nights are fast on autumn’s heels and champing — never chomping — at November’s bit. Ready the hot wax! Add to your quiver of skis if fortune has smiled graciously upon your rosy cheeks! Damn if 22⁰F begins to feel toasty. Know that eventually 12⁰F will become blessedly doable if you are splitting more rounds or skinning up the mountain. Then, somehow make the negative numbers work.
Make certain to take midnight kick-and-glides in the light of the bright and waxing moon. Do not use your headlamp. Slide your fish scales across the mountain highway deep with snow and long since closed for the season. Gather a few good friends and bring along a thermos of blueberry
tea, a hot, adult beverage that has nothing to do with blueberries and yet tastes magically of the delicious fruit. A very adventuresome friend of mine proclaims, Everything’s better with booze. And while this may be an arguable point, it makes us laugh.
Watch as disembodied, reflective eyes mystically hover two feet above the glacier-blue and mica-garnished surface. Lynx in the sky with diamonds.
Much later, go on home, stoke the woodstove, sleep like a puppy.
The season becomes circular: shovel-shovel, split-stack, skin-ski, shovel-shovel, sleep. Grow quick and sinewy, in spite of the extra calories consumed. Snow and firewood management grow muscles. Skiing grows wings.
I dread the encroachment of late spring, with the threat of fierce and fiery summer lurking in its shrinking shadows, biting viciously at its heels. With some amount of sorrow, I anticipate the holding of my breath.
At the end of an extended winter season, across the border in northern Cascadia, when the cold and snow continued late and well into spring, nay nearly into summer, while many grew weary of the lingering cold and less enthusiastic about the promise of greening hills, an absent fire season and an increased water table, my dear and very adventuresome friend Anne called out heartily into the grey and frigid air, eyes skyward, fists clenched, Grow me some glaciers!
Blueberry Tea for a Moonlit Ski
1 oz. Amaretto
2 oz. Grand Marnier
Piping Hot Earl Gray Tea
Absolutely No Blueberries
Pour piping hot Earl Gray tea steeped with lemon peel into thermos.
Add measurements of Amaretto and Grand Marnier for each full cup of tea.
Serve hot, while moving across snow, under the light of a shining moon.
Senior correspondent Tricia M. Cook is an avid wolf preservationist who lives in the North Cascades of Washington State.