Sunday, December 4, 2011

Summer's Loss, Winter's Gain.

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.   

45 comments:

  1. I hope to get that same feeling. I am really tired of: hot and wet, hot and dry, wash, rinse, repeat.

    Good post!

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  2. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. One Bug - Living in San Francisco's constant 60-ish with variations on a theme of fog weather, cured me of ever thinking I could exist in a place without seasons. Thanks so much, and I hope you find "that feeling" too.

    limpcobra - Ah, you're welcome...I think your winters and mine are not for the faint-of-heart. ;)

    tnfishdaddy - Thank you, for stopping by to read.

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  4. As a small child i used to love waking up in the morning after a night of heavy snow and enjoying the quietness that would usually accompany them.

    It must be lovely being able to live a life where you can control how 'connected' to the outside world you are............... is the mobile phone the bane of modern life, what did we do before them?

    Lovely as ever Erin.

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  5. spectacular image! I love the first few snowfalls.

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  6. The house was waiting for you Erin and you had the moxie to leap into house ownership when most would of fled. You needed roots to stabilize your life and then you found Jay...and the story in the canyon continues to unfold for two...bugger on.

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  7. Tom - I am still a small child in many ways. ;) And I love that when I'm home, my cell phone has no hope of ringing. Thanks much!

    Gary - Thanks so much! Indeed...I love them too.

    Phillip - And just as you are beginning your spring...

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  8. sgb - Moxie is a chip of the old block. :) I do like to think the cabin was waiting, just for me to find it. And on the story goes...

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  9. I have always enjoyed living in the snow zone for many of the same reasons. When my son was born in Alaska, we were in the middle of a four day snow storm that dumped 13' of snow. His first 5 days of life were in an insulated snow cave of a house without power. I had to crawl out a window to shovel out the door, twice. I remember the silence and the feeling of security. My family was as safe as they could ever be. Enjoy your quiet season!

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  10. The frozen windows reminded me of hunting boots frozen to the floor of my pop-up camper and one hunting season when the temp dropped below 0 and 2 cans of Pepsi exploded inside the camper (what a mess). Brrrr!
    Stoke that fire, stay warm and keep writing. See you in the spring when you come out of hibernation. ;-)

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  11. "Living through something being taken away makes you adore it even more when it returns."

    I couldn't have said it better Erin, you just wrote a great salute to winter. Which is, far and above, the greatest season...that is, until summer comes.

    Great job!

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  12. Ah... That house... Old man coffee pot... Wood stove... Windows... Bird feeder... Dead cranefly... All characters in your canyon life, all meant to be together. Keep livin' it up Erin.

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  13. Stubborn and willing to endure... just because they think you can't. That's my girl! Most people just don't realize you've been through hell...this is a cakewalk! bhive

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  14. MysticFish - Your son got a good start to life. Enjoy your quiet season as well!

    FlyFishingCrazy - It broke zero right about when I headed out to shovel. But man, it always amazes me what a sweat shoveling works up. Thanks, as always!

    Travis - Thanks for stopping by! Hope you're enjoying this, the greatest of seasons too. (And by the way, your blog is missed!) :-)

    backcountryfishnerd - It's a crazy story going on up here. ;)

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  15. bhive - Kind of like an ice cream cake-walk. And hey, guess where I learned my persistence from? Chip of the Old Block. <3 e

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  16. Yes, winter can put a chill up your spine, if you let it. Or it can be the beautiful, silence of snowflakes falling every so lightly. My "Sunday Tippet" here is to always appreciate and be grateful for what you have...because there is a reason why you have been given it. And there is a reason why you found solace in your canyon...

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  17. Well said Erin,a very beautiful read.

    There is something wonderful and special about winter,snow covered ground,crunching underfoot and air as sharp as a thousand daggers,every passing season of the year has something that makes it special and unique in its own right.

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  18. Of course in the UK, when we get 1.3" let alone 13", the Country comes to a standstill and people panic buy the shops empty. Snow is all about attitude and you seem to have it jut about right Erin - enjoy your many winters there.

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  19. So well put as usual Erin. Abstinence definitely improves an experience. Fishing needs to be like that, too much and it can lose its edge, familiarity can breed contempt, or at least find real appreciation recedes.

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  20. Erin, you're like a good story with all it's twists and turns. I'm glad that you made a good turn into the canyon and all it offers you.

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  21. River Damsel - I love your outlook on life. :-)

    Mark - There is definitely something special about it...and nothing like a walk through freshly fallen snow. Thanks, as always!

    Dave - You're very right about attitude, and for some people, winter is a very grumpy time. ;)

    Witham Piscator - Many thanks...and I can read that you know exactly what I mean. :)

    Cofisher - Well thanks! And I'm very happy about my decision to make the turn...even though turns can be very scary things.

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  22. "This is the kind of thing that would have gotten me to stay here, even if I did wind up hating it." I like this and kind of expect it from you. Nice story about your home.

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  23. Erin, great story on winter and some of the first storms of the season, it takes my back to my childhood. I have just left our season of extremes here in Arizona. Your writing makes me realize there is portions of every season to be enjoyed everywhere.

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  24. Whenever I see images of snow around houses like that, my first thought is The Shining. Happens every time. The ghosts of your property records adds to it this time.

    Luckily, we don't get snow that bad. Most of the time. But even now, with nothing on the ground and nothing called for, the snow shovel sits directly next to the front door. Been there for the past two weeks.

    Wasn't in the Boy Scouts for 6 years for nuthin' you know.

    People that are incapable of living within their heads are the ones that generally fail in locations like yours. Based on what I've been reading since finding you blog, I don't think you have that problem.

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  25. Wickes - You're welcome...but thank you for reading.

    Herringbone - Thanks for stopping by, and yes, that is a pretty good summary of my personality. ;)

    Tonto - The children's author Lemony Snicket wrote it best, "There's always something." And there is. Thanks much for stopping by, reading, and commenting!

    Ken G. - "Always Prepared." I like that. I think I would've made a damn fine boy scout. Went to one girl scouts meeting once, and they taught us how to make a bed. That's when I joined 4-H. ;) And you know, my problem seems to be living outside my head sometimes...

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  26. Erin, your outlook is akin to a breath of fresh, cold mountain air. I can only hope to aspire to the same level of insightful optimism. For some reason, I am always reminded of The Shining...;)

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  27. I should clarify...YOU do not remind me of The Shining...it is my approach to winter that reminds of it...

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  28. Kirk - Thanks for the clarification. ;-) And thanks as always, for the kind words.

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  29. Great stuff Erin,

    Like MysticFish my sons were born in Alaska. I relished that life. All of it, winter and summer. The photo reminds me some of our home in Fairbanks and woodpile covered with snow. You would understand the maxim, you get warm twice with wood heat, cutting and stacking, then burning. We lived with out running water as did many, you would enjoy the subculture up there. Though you may not approve, I don't know, I too spent long hours by snowshoe, running a non motorized trap line near my home. Those logs we burned? As the wood thawed inside the spruce bark beetle grubs would come out of winter dormancy and make an audible "munch munch" all night long. It occurred to me that they don't freeze, look like fish food, and indeed they were sometimes the ONLY thing that caught fish Ice fishing, in my days when I fished any way that worked, legally. (Just fly fish now,since 1985, only.)
    Gregg

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  30. Gregg - No running water, trap lines, bark beetle grub fishing...? I very much approve. :) It's funny...Jay lived in Alaska for awhile, and has said on numerous occasions how the canyon reminds him of it. Thank you so much for reading, and especially for leaving your thoughts.

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  31. I was initially reminded of Ecclesiastes 11:9, but then rethought it. Your youth lets you enjoy it, but there is no price to be paid, rather a reward to be garnered. You deserve every second of this enjoyment. Rejoice, Erin.
    Cheers,
    Mike
    Oh, I'm on the Gulf now.

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  32. Mike - Oh, I've lost quite a lot to get here...to everything its season, all too familiar with that. And yes, I shall rejoice in this one. Enjoy the gulf!

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  33. cell phone service is overrated anyways. I love earning Montana summers by going through Montana winters. another great one, EMB.

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  34. Looks like winter has settled in for the duration e.m.b. Still bare ground back here in Maine. Lucky you, as those mountain streams (and trout) will be completely refreshed come spring.

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  35. Winter, winter............good luck, Erin !!

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  36. Ivan - Exactly. I like earning things, not being given. Enjoy your Montana winter, Ivan...you're earning a wonderful summer.

    penbayman - Yep! And I have a feeling it's going to be another heavy runoff year.

    Tomek - Thank you...and my best to you in Poland!

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  37. Reminds me of the winter I spent in CO. I went with no intention of staying, mainly to scratch a skiing itch, and loved the snow. Not just the stuff on the mountain either. Many days I walked through a field knee-deep in it to get to the bus stop. Never minded pushing it off the windshield, shoveling off the walk, walking around town in it. It just never got old.

    Cold weather and snow aren't something most southerners pine for so I guess I'm a bit of an anomaly. Could be the photographic negative of your "long cold winters make the short warm summers better".

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  38. Mark - Anomalies are good and interesting. ;) Snow never gets old for me, either -- knee deep, shoveling mountains...makes like feel more adventurous and that you're actually surviving something. Good feeling. Thanks so much for reading, and leaving your thoughts...

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  39. Finally had a moment to read this one, and oh, what a beauty. I've often thought about the insulating elements of snow and ice, even their colors. I fully enjoyed this, Erin. Thanks for posting. I can't wait to scroll down the page and read more.

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  40. Emily - Many thanks for the kind words, and for stopping by...both, truly appreciated. And I hope you enjoyed the scroll down, too.

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  41. I like your approach to life.I'm going to try this.

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  42. Hart - And I am thinking of trying your approach to birds and windows...ritual feathers!

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