Light. Blue-grey in color, as if it’s seeping through a snow cave to wake me with the same warmth I remember feeling in a sleeping bag dug into a bank of snow high in the Sierras on a snowshoeing trip during college. Snow and ice aren't just cold, they’re also strangely insulating -- similar to how a pedal point quiets itself by simply always being there. The constants, are often the ones overlooked. I put back on my wool hat peeled off in my sleep, scratch the ice off the insides of the bedroom’s windows, and am greeted Good Morning by snow. Lots of snow. Surrounded by it, I feel warm -- just like in an ice cave. Over a foot and still falling on top of the thirteen inches we got a day ago. I start the coffee pot sputtering, auguring aches and pains...reminding me of an old man.
I grab a shovel from the shed whose door I have to dig open with my hands, and start at it. My muscles are still sore from the previous batch. My back and shoulders and chest. They tell me that I did something, that I worked and sweated for something, and I like that feeling.
And I like the feeling of this season, of winter, if for nothing else but the fact that it makes me appreciate the canyon’s short and sweet summers all the more. Living through something being taken away makes you adore it even more when it returns. Love, a lost puppy, wildflowers, food. I've grown accustomed to denying myself things, and in many ways thrive by doing so -- even, if those things never come back. Perhaps though, I’m just incredibly selfish, and this is how I combat it, how I punish and train myself to be thankful: by taking things away.
In the same vein, I took away temperateness so that I could fully bask in the sun. I sought out harsh, long winters, so that those 4 months of summer would be divine. Salvation, it’s said, comes through washing...mine comes through snow. I find myself through this loss.
Yesterday, I looked up the property records for the small string of houses along my road, trying to figure out and satisfy my curiosity about the survey lines out the back mountain, and I noticed how many times this house has sat vacant. It was three-years lonely when I bought it, and back in the 80’s, it sat for 10 years, alone. When I first moved in, Neighbor Tom walked down the road to welcome me to the canyon, and tell me that people usually only last one winter. They miss the convenience of city-life, the cell-phone reception, the connectedness, the friends, and the lack of snow --- and after the first winter, they flee back to civilization, to lower elevations. He’s seen it time and again, Tom says. This is the kind of thing that would have gotten me to stay here, even if I did end up hating it. Just to prove him wrong. But I love it. And that, is why I stay. As I shovel, he waves from his snow-blower. He sees → I’m lasting.
Yet, looking at those property records is eerie. All those people. All those changes of hands. All those dreams dashed, marriages ended, bankruptcies filed, and foreclosures finalized....yes, I have heard some of the stories. It’s as if there is a curse in the foundation of this place....a story that I don’t know...
But my story is this: I made it through the long winter last year, and I’m grateful for another. This chapter, containing much more firewood. And I’m grateful to not see aspen leaves, hummingbirds, and wildflowers when I look out my window. Yes, I’m grateful for that loss, and for the gain of icicles hanging from my gutters, a driveway full of snow, and window frost when I wake.
Because I know, canyon summers are divine.