March in February

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A week ago we had snow. This photo was taken up in Stowe where there was even more snow, but still, we had over a foot on the ground here in the valley. We skied around the field. We sledded down the hill. There was enough snow to simply fall backwards and feel the poof of a soft landing. Then it got warm.

Yesterday it started getting warmer. It got up to seventy degrees by early afternoon. In February. What gives with that? We had a flood watch. The snow kept melting. Then it rained. The fields all around us started to flood. It was wet. The river ran high. I swore a heard a Killdeer but I couldn’t find it. I did hear Red-Winged Blackbirds. Lots of them. This is the earliest they have been back since we have lived in this house.

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Just after dark it started to snow. The temperature dropped from a high of 70 to just above freezing. By morning things were crusty and frozen. The mountains had a fresh coat of white. The wind picked up. It was a cold, raw day, more seasonal than yesterday.

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I went birding on the lake. I saw lots of ducks and geese. I was dressed for it, but still, in that fierce wind I got cold. I drank coffee on the way home and felt the warm sun through the windshield.

The sun is higher now. It keeps climbing every day. Soon the warm days will be more common. Will we get more snow? Is winter really on the way out? This is March weather. Usually February is just winter. March is the transition month. Are we really going to have  spring before March even arrives? It could be a fluke, but the patterns suggest otherwise. I love spring, but really, I miss winter. And I don’t think its coming back.

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Not Out in the Snow

Yesterday it snowed most of the day. Today there was fresh snow on the ground, flurries on and off. I work in lots of different places, with no office or standard workplace to speak of. Yesterday and today I hung out in a library, meeting students.

The place is well lit, with lots of windows. I sat next to the windows, facing into the building so students could find me. But I turned around a lot. Sometimes, when I had a moment, I would stare out there. I would watch the snow fall, look at the piles of it. I would imagine being out in it.

I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. I was next to a parking lot. But I have a good imagination. I imagined, in a few spare moments, being in the wilderness, skiing where the wind provides the only sound aside from the shush of skis. The Wind River Range in Wyoming, the mountains of Idaho, the Green Mountain Ridge. I thought of these places I had been.

Two days ago I worked in a windowless conference room. It was snowing like crazy and I didn’t know it for hours. This morning, at least, I did get out in it. I skied several laps around the meadow. It was just light enough. I had to break new tracks in places where the wind had filled them in. A Great Horned Owl hooted in the woods. A couple of crows called back and forth. Snow Buntings trilled across the road. Then I went to the library.

I will ski again tomorrow. Maybe in the mountains, maybe right here. We’ll see what happens. I might read for a while, looking out at the snow from the warm house. But I won’t do that in the library. I’ve spent enough time there this week.

Blue Morning

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I thought just maybe it would be snowing this morning. It had snowed, last night, and there was a fresh inch or so on the ground. A few flurries drifted out of the blue sky but I wouldn’t say it was snowing. I was up fairly early and hoped to run in the falling snow. I went out anyway.

Last night’s lunar eclipse was, well, eclipsed, by clouds. Clouds blanketed the sky. It was still getting light. The sky was sleeping in.

The sky was blue. The new snow, on the fir trees and on the dried flowers in the field, was blue. The snow on the road, yet to be plowed, was blue. It was a blue morning. But I felt good. No blues there. I ran in a cleaned landscape. Crows dotted the sky at the top of the hill. The air was still.

I ran in the quiet, my steps muffled. The town plow scraped the road, coming toward me. I could see it from far off. I watched it stop, turn around at the town line, head the other way. Soon, I ran on the plowed road. My feet slipped where the truck’s tires packed the snow. I ran on. I slowed at the big ash tree just past the intersection, turned back.

I heated up but stayed cool enough. I felt strong. The morning was blue. As I slowed to head up the driveway, it began to turn yellow. I walked slowly back to the house, my breath steaming in the cold winter air.  It would be, I imagined, a good day.

Going to Snow Land

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Down here in the valley we have little snow. Oh we have some patches here and there. It snowed this morning, in fact, and a dusting tried to gather on the cold ground. But really things are brown and gray with some dark green punctuation. So yesterday we took a trip up to where the snow can be found.

Head up just a little bit and you can find snow. We went to Stowe and parked the van at Trapp Family Lodge. We clicked on our nordic skies and headed uphill into the woods. The sky was mostly cloudy but blue popped out here and there. I skied with the whole fam–spouse, daughter, son. My offspring can ski my pants off now. They have been taking lessons with a ski program a couple days each week. They have come a long way, skill-wise, since our first trip on those same trails.

We skied only slightly uphill at first but then hit the steeper trails. Trapp Family Lodge has a backcountry cabin a couple of miles in. Caretakers there serve hot soup and sandwiches and hot cocoa and tea. On a chilly day and after some work getting up there, that is a treat. That trip to the cabin, which once was a huge adventure for my kids, was yesterday a solid ski that they described at taking “so much less time than it used to!” True, that.

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The trails are groomed and the snow was perfect. It was just the antidote to the dreary snowlessness of the valley. We have talked many times of moving where there might be more snow–higher in elevation, farther north. We miss snow. Records show that our town used to get more snow that we get now. That rots for us in these days of warming. One of these days we might do it. My wife, however, pointed out that it will just be a matter time before Stowe gets too little snow as well. True (I am afraid), that.

This week? Rain in the forecast. Even up high. That is whey we had to get up there. We had to slide around in the fresh snow before it melts away. Hopefully we will get more chances this winter to romp about in the white stuff. As always, I will try to be optimistic. We had a neighbor, back in the days when we lived on the mountain, who had a vanity plate: PRY4SNO. Maybe I will try that.

Icy Running

img_4775One of my goals has been to run more this year. I used to run a lot. I ran marathons and even completed the Vermont 50. That feels like a long time ago now. After back surgery and an early stroke and a few years of aging to boot, I got out of the habit. Not that I didn’t want to run, but I got injured more often and more easily, and running made me too reflective after going to such a dark place with a stroke. But now I am ready to get back to it.

When I was a frequent runner I would track my mileage. I did this for training purposes, of course. Should I get in a longer run this weekend? Should I take a day off? That kind of thing. I also did it for my shoes. I tried not to put too many miles on my shoes to avoid a blow out or an injury. These days, however, I find it better to forget about distance and pace and total mileage. I want to just get out there and enjoy it. I want to simply run.

Many years ago I was surprised, before the start of a marathon, to run into a good friend from college. I knew Pat had become a serious runner, taking on marathons, trying to run fast. He asked me if I had a finish time goal. That year I didn’t really have a significant one–maybe finish under four hours or something. He said to me “I think I’ll try to start out with fives.” It took me a minute to realize he was talking about his pace. He was planning to run an average of five minutes per mile. When you think that way you win marathons. Turns out, out of a field of thousands, he came in fourth overall. Not too shabby.

Afterwards I asked Pat about his training. He admitted that he did not always want to go for a run. Some days it was raining or cold or he was just tired, but he was determined to reach the running goals he set for himself. So he said this: “When I know I need to get out there, but I don’t feel like it, I just get out there anyway.” Always, he said, he felt great once he got going, and especially great when he was done. So this year I am determined to get out there anyway.

Yesterday morning I got out there. There is a beautiful class four road (unmaintained in winter) nearby. It is perfect for a run–through the woods, great views into town, all dirt, no pavement. I have not run on it much recently because it has been snowy or icy and seemed too treacherous. But I have started to run on it anyway. Yesterday morning it was covered in a light snow. This was a challenge as that light snow covered up the ice. Light snow on ice? Not ideal for running.

I picked may through, however, walking gingerly at times. Again, I am not in it for a pace. I just want to run. It was a beautiful morning, cold but not too cold. The fresh snow beautified the brownness and grayness of winter. I sucked in the wintry air and stayed warm by moving. It felt, as my friend had suggested all those years ago, great.

This is a lesson I keep coming back to. Get out there anyway. The road is icy, or it is snowing, or it is hot, or rain pounds the trail–get out there anyway. I carry it over into other realms as well. At work, I have to do something I don’t really want to do? Do it anyway. That chore at home I would rather put off? Do it anyway.

Come spring, lots of people will come out of the woodwork and I will see them running. I will not wait. As long as I don’t injure myself I will get out there whatever the weather, whatever my mood. I know that once I get going I will feel great. Thanks, Pat.

Good Day for Pie

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I’m not talking a sweet pie. I’m talking a savory pie. It was cold today, not freeze your hindquarters cold mind you, but seasonally cold. That means below freezing. It had been in the single digits, a couple of nights ago, and I think the cold I soaked in then has been seeping out of me since. It was a good night for a pot pie for dinner.

I had been building up to this pie, a tofu pot pie. I have wanted to make one for several days now. I even bought some tofu, a different variety than I usually use, you know, to mix things up a bit, and that has been waiting in the fridge for this very pie. Yesterday morning, after the aforementioned cold snap, I ran in the morning. I think it got up to twelve degrees by the time I got home. I was warm enough but a bit chilled. If you run, or do anything outside in the cold, you know what I’m talking about. So tonight, since I could be home early enough, I made the dang pie.

I have written about this pie before, so if you want the recipe (don’t be lazy just bake it already) you can find it here.  It involves a big mess in the kitchen, several bowls, a small kitchen appliance and plenty of dishes to wash. And it takes a while to prep. But, I can tell you, this bad boy is a savory winter night delight. Tickles the tongue with tastiness and fills you right up.

Tomorrow morning I will run again. Maybe there will be some light snow. Temperatures will be in the twenties. Typical winter morning (finally! It has been way too warm this winter) for a typical frozen dirt road run. There is the possibility that I will think about dinner again on that run. I may think about what other comfort food will do me right a couple chilly evenings hence. I may hatch a plan to acquire ingredients and hammer out some more yumminess.

My son was pretty keen on having some ice cream at some point after dinner (my wife bought four pints, unable to resist an admittedly great sale). I made a face at that idea. I was too full. That was quite a while ago now. Even now, ice cream seems like a bad idea. Too much pie. Although, I really do like ice cream. Maybe we can just have ice cream for dinner tomorrow night.

(If you have some ideas for dinner, let me know. It is easy to get stuck in the same cycle of meals. I am looking for hearty no-meat dinners with quality ingredients and some gustatory pow).