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.

Shoveling a Path to the Compost

Snow has been falling at here for most of the last two days. I like to turn on the floodlight at the end of the house and go shovel at night. When I look into the darkness, those little sparkly crystals are still falling. The neighbors’ houses are lit up and cozy-looking. My little house beckons warmly too.

This is the same snowstorm that has brought Seattle to a halt. As I listened to the radio news this evening, the reporter had recorded his story while sliding on cross country skis in the city streets. Later I looked at a Seattle paper online to learn how much snow had actually fallen. Four to eight inches. More had fallen in the southwest part of Washington. No mention was made of any place east of the Cascades.

Well, I suppose it’s not news that it snows here, especially in the mountains.

I shoveled a path to the compost. The snow is about knee-deep, light and very cold. Easy shoveling. Skiing would be good. Earlier in the day, I’d thought about skiing from the back door. But the lure of the nest was too strong. I stood at the window, hypnotized by the magic of falling snow. Turned back to all my projects–clearing off the drawing table (this task never ends), actually drawing, making sourdough whole wheat biscuits to serve with soup to a friend for lunch, learning some new tricks in Photoshop, starting a batch of vanilla extract. Life is slow enough now to do those sorts of things. Life is slow enough to think, ponder, mull, ruminate, reflect, tinker, putter, relax.

Life is calm enough to write some poetry. What will it take to get more of you to post a haiku? The haiku challenge is not about writing something good. It’s about writing, period. Let the images of your day ferment in the compost of your awareness and see what transforms into seventeen syllables of wonderment.

Strengthening Sun

Fresh new snow on Friday night…when Saturday morning fog cleared, this is what we got. I like to look at the shadows of the trees. I like to ski in the fluff, and turn my face up to the bright sky. As someone said, life is good.

More Sun

No time for art shots lately, but the light has been magnificent. Remembering all about light and shadows, which really do exist. There is more to this world than flat grayness. It’s the contrast that gives us a sense of depth and space.

Feeling parched and windburned by three days of snowmobiling. Progress is being made on our inventory of snowmobile routes, signs are being put up, public contacts made. I get to observe the snowpack change from frozen and icy in the morning to soft and slushy by afternoon. See where hoarfrost has formed during the cold nights, and glitters like sequins. Watch ravens watch us.

Today, while loading snowmobiles to head for home, I heard a varied thrush in the woods. Spring is coming a little more every day.


Pastel on paper, 1995

Yesterday at Resort Creek pond, John and I ate lunch while sitting on our snowmobiles in the fog. “Take off your helmet, and listen to this bird,” I told him. “I hear it,” he replied. Flocks of crossbills were somewhere in the trees, singing. Not just calling to each other, but singing. Singing like it’s time to think about setting up a territory, attracting a mate, getting on with life.

Today we rode snowmobiles in a snow squall so intense that I was nearly blinded, and the ice crystals hit my face like fine needles piercing the skin. Consider, I thought to myself, that the bluebirds are already on their way back to Washington. It still feels like winter, but in less than a month the bluebirds will show up at Swauk Prairie with no fanfare at all. It will be grim and mucky as the snow melts, but these little flecks of sky will have returned from their tropical vacation to get on with life.

The sight of them makes my heart physically lift in my chest.

Not Spring

It was not spring today at 6000 feet in elevation. The temperature was in the 20s, and fine powdery snow sifted down. At first I thought it was just blowing out of the trees, but it was new and fresh. It landed on my dark green parka, and I could see the spiky little points of crystals.

You know you’re alive when you’re cold. Toes ache inside boots, fingers are exquisitely stiff and sore inside two pairs of gloves, face is so cold it feels clumsy to talk. Life gets a lot better when you get back to the truck, load the snowmobiles on the trailer, pull off the helmet and head for home. Get out of the wind, crank the heat, pour a cup of tea from the thermos. You know you’re alive when you start to warm up.