Pure Fluff

Leaning back on my pack at lunchtime, legs stretched out in the snow in front of me. The sun has come out after a morning of hard snowfall. I look up into fir spires against the sky.

Jon and I are on snowshoes, cutting low hanging limbs over a ski trail. This new snow is cold and fluffy, and I can practically scuff through it like a drift of goose down. Like fireweed seeds. There’s nothing to it. I watch it land on my dark clothing, feathery and light. My eyes want to fall entranced into the intricate shapes of the crystals–perfect and six-pointed. I want a magnifying glass to stare through with wonder.

Both of us have been powdered by snow falling off the branches we cut. When I forget to pull up my hood, it goes down my neck and melts. My gloves are damp and fingers inside start to feel cold. A good time to stop for lunch and pull on an extra layer. The snow squall stops, the clouds dissipate, and warmth pours down from the clear blue sky. Air temperature rises, and snow immediately starts dropping from the bowed conifer branches. Clumps thud. Ice tinkles down through the needled boughs. And just like that, the fluff is no more.

Snow is ephemeral, changing as it falls. Once it’s on the ground, it doesn’t stay the same. Temperature, wind, rain and humidity–all these elements are at work within the snowpack at any given time. Snow settles, shifts, consolidates. Sun and shade, night and day move across its surface, and penetrate deep within.

We hike out, snow sticking to our snowshoes in awkward blobs. As comforting as it is to think of nature as a constant, the truth is that it’s not. There are rhythms within rhythms, and the only constant is change. So it is in the big wild world, and so it is within us.

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