I took part in the mid-winter Bald Eagle survey today. Yesterday was the target day, but I have been out of commission with a cold for a week. I tried to go into work on Wednesday, but I left early. I felt like garbage. I stayed out the next two days. Today, finally, I felt OK. Yesterday I was on the mend but I am glad I rested.
I saw zero Bald Eagles. There were not a lot of birds out in general. The day started at -6º Fahrenheit. It got as low as -9º. It was 11:00 before I saw the thermometer rise into positive territory. Our high was 13º. I guess the eagles were not interested in the cold. As I have the past two years, I took photos along the way. Here is my Winooski River portrait for this cold day.
“The thing is,” said my son afterwards, “No one even thought it was weird. It was just something that would happen in Vermont.”
He had a point. I dropped him off early for a nordic ski meet, then went to take a walk at the Green Mountain Audubon center. I had over an hour. I drove the couple miles out on the dirt road, passing a bus headed up, and started down the hill at the end. There was a bus there, pulled over at the bottom. Printed on the side was “White River Valley” so they had had a long drive already. That hill was a bit slick, but it didn’t seem too slick. Then again, I wasn’t driving a bus full of minors.
When I returned, the bus was still there. In fact, there now were three busses, from different school districts. I thought of offering to shuttle some skiers up, but I figured that was a non-starter. Parents have to sign a waiver to allow their kids to ride on the bus. Any good bus driver would not let them ride in some stranger’s vehicle, even if they had a current FBI background check. So I kept going.
Up at the ski center I learned that the race, no surprise to me, was delayed–busses stuck. I chatted with my son for a bit. Then someone passed looking for volunteers to shuttle people up. I guess they are being flexible with the transportation, I thought. So I headed back down the road again in my car.
At the bus, the first driver was, predictably, unwilling to let students go. I understood that. I asked if he knew the long way around. One of the busses was gone, so maybe they had already decided to take that route. A bunch of cars started to pile up, folks willing to transport skiers. Then the town truck arrived to sand the road. So the busses were no longer stuck, and we caravanned back to the ski center. I spent a lot of time on that road.
Eventually everyone got where they needed to be, and the race started, only 45 minutes late, and my son cranked it out despite the crappy conditions, and it was an event full of fun and hard work, and I saw a bunch of other parents I know, and it all worked out. There were plenty of people willing to help, and it felt to me like a conflict between neighborliness and liability.
Once upon a time neighborliness would have won the day. Today, safety and security take precedence. I don’t think one is better than the other, or that one way should be the right way. I just noticed it in this case. I would have done just what those bus drivers did. But still, it would have been nice to have a bunch of people solve a problem and make the solution happen. And that is something, I am sure, is not unique to Vermont, even if those busses stuck on an icy hill was a classic Vermont situation.
On Christmas Eve it started to snow. A light snow, but it was not long before it started to gather on the ground. It was not setting up to be a white Christmas so it was nice to get at least that. And it kept falling. We readied ourselves for the big elf in the red suit and, when we finally went to bed, the snow still came down.
Christmas morning we had snow. Maybe three inches on the ground. And it stuck the trees as well. The world was clean and white. My son said it was a Christmas miracle, perhaps half joking. I just thought we were lucky.
My wife and I walked out in it for a bit that morning. It was cold but sunny. The sky was blue. We were pretty content, our children riding the high of gifts and surprises. We did not get up until close to 6:00 AM, so we even had some decent sleep. Snow squeaked as we walked.
That night the cold rose up. All the moisture in the air settled and froze. Every twig and stone and blade of dry milkweed was covered in ice. You know those cheesy holiday decorations that are covered in fake frost, exaggerated versions of reality? It looked like that.
The low sun, before it climbed up to hide behind low clouds, splashed the world with brightness. All that ice glittered and sparkled. Winter wonderland and all that. Spectacular. Then it became another frosty morning.
Today, rain. And fog. Sleet last night. It seems we are getting all the winter weather. Christmas is over, which is always a bit of a letdown in our house. But I still feel the spirit. The new year is just around the corner. An arbitrary beginning and ending, for sure, but still, a time to reassess and to set some goals. I will get outside again to take some time to reflect on that.
We had snow. Then it melted. That usually happens. And usually I am disappointed. It is mid-December, and snow lingers only in the shady spots. At least it isn’t all gone. The mountains are tipped in white, blanketed even. Here in the valley, however, it feels like spring.
The sun hasn’t shown itself much, but yesterday it came through. And the temperature climbed over the freezing mark. It felt like March. With the last of the snow melting, it looked like March, too. Clouds came in. The Geminid meteor shower was a bust around here. It hoped we might get one more shot at seeing some shooting stars last night, but those pesky clouds…
The grass is showing again. It is mixed in with the brown of fallen leaves and dried shoots, but it persists. Squirrels pluck seeds, fallen from the bird feeder, from the lawn. They seem to be navigating the grass just fine. No mistletoe or ivy needed around here. Green lies around right outside the window.
This is pretty typical these days. Not that long back our December days had little green and lots of white. We shoveled out many a day. Our snow shovel sits unused on the porch. I have to hope we get some more snow before Christmas. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I can say I’m hopeful.
The temperature has creeped up again this morning. Winter seems to be trying to emulate spring. Just be yourself, winter. You are beautiful the way you are. Let spring be spring. I want to see your snowy self. Be glorious. Be icy. Be cold. But no pressure. Next week will do. Just don’t wait too long. Christmas isn’t far off.
One time we went to the Christmas tree farm up the road and wore boots, not for the snow, but for the mud. My son wore shorts. A coat was too much to wear. At least our hands didn’t get numb.
This year we had snow on the ground when we carried our saw out to select a tree. We wandered farther into the firs than we usually do. Typically we find one that is good enough before we get too far down the hill, and we could have this time, but we kept going to see what might be found.
We might have gotten some snow in our boots, but that’s cool. My son did the cutting. Balsams are not tough when it comes to facing a saw so it was quick. Then we carried that baby over our shoulders and tied it to the car’s roof rack.
The damage was $30. Not bad for a tree as fresh as can be. I bought a half gallon of maple syrup while I was at it–also a bargain at only 25 bucks. That was just in time as we had maybe a half cup of syrup left. And since we will have waffles on Christmas morning, it was fitting.
Now the tree is trimmed and glowing, ornaments dangling and lights a-twinkle. It is festive in here. My wife is a decorator with no equal when it comes to making our house look cheery for the holidays. I am lucky that way.
It felt good to cut a tree in the snow. We still have snow on the ground now, days later. Let’s hope it stays for several weeks. It would be nice to have snow on the ground for Christmas. Too often we don’t. I hoping this year will deliver.
We headed up to Stowe on Friday and it was snowing. It snowed for days. On Saturday, five days before the earliest Thanksgiving possible, we went nordic skiing at Trapp Family Lodge. It was some of the best conditions I have seen there. There were some (sort of) thin spots where water flowed underground, or where the wind blew across a field, but that can happen even mid-winter. It was March skiing in November.
We skied several times last week. The woods were magical. Winter wonderland and whatnot. And we cozied up inside by the fire. Since we were staying up there, we walked down every morning for coffee at the Kaffeehaus. We even walked down Friday morning when it was below zero. We also got pastries there. They know how to do pastries. Couldn’t get enough of those, especially that almond croissant jobber, so it was a good thing it was a solid walk to get there or I might have gone twice each day. Maybe I did go twice one day. None of your business.
You can’t say snow isn’t beautiful. I mean, you could, if you are a curmudgeon, but seriously? Snow covers up the blemishes of the natural and the human world. It helps us see things in new ways. It makes its own sculptures. It is art. Check out this pic:
The wind had blown oak leaves, which cling longer than most, onto the clean field of snow. Many of them speared the surface and stood there–a crowd of oak leaves, waiting for someone to tell them where to go. They went nowhere. The next day, snow lay a blanket over them–temporary art transformed into a metaphor for slumber.
When we left, the day after Thanksgiving, the sun shone on more fresh snow. It gleamed. It glistened. Ski tracks called but we did not listen. We headed back home, leaving the wonderland behind. We still have snow here, just not as much. Tips of grass stand out in the meadow. Trees have no white. Snow is fickle, so hopefully it at least sticks around up high. If it doesn’t come to us, we will go find it in the mountains. I’ll give thanks for that.
Outside the window, rain pounded the porch roof. It was too dark to see the rain, or the field beyond. But water falling onto standing seam is loud. It was coming down. I woke several times in the night, battling a cold that dragged a cough across my throat. Each time I heard the rain.
But then, as the light overtook the dark, the rain did not pound the porch roof. The rain had stopped. It was still hardly light, and I groggily slogged over to brush my teeth. I shaved. I showered. When I finally left the bathroom I saw the snow. It had not just stopped raining. It had started snowing.
Snow is quiet. It coated the grass and the bare maple branches and the piles of fallen leaves. It coated the porch roof. I watched it fall while I debated whether to subject my work colleagues to my cold. Then I coughed again. I stayed home. I watched the quiet snow fall.
Later, my wife and I walked in the snow. We had a window of time and took advantage of it. I coughed along the way. The snow was wet. The road was muddy. Trees dripped their slush into the river. We wore hoods and watched the horses watch us as we walked past. The wet snow kept falling.
In the afternoon the snow stopped, then slowly started to fall again. Now, in the dark, the clouds are keeping things to themselves. Wind tries to shake the last birch leaves onto the house. Tonight will be cold, and tomorrow. More snow will fall this week. The porch roof will creak with ice before turning white again.
Will I notice the next snow? Or will I wake again in bleary unawareness? I will try to watch for it, even in the dark, even when my dreams can’t seem to stop churning. However long it takes me to see it, I will appreciate it. And it will make me smile. And whether I can or not, I will want, as I did today, to go out walking it that snow with the most beautiful woman in the world. If the timing is right, I will.