esprit de corps

Lewie does not take up his usual you-will-not-leave-without-me post at the front door this morning. Instead he watches me with steady eyes from the couch as I move about the house making preparations. Today we are running Catamount Trail Section 28, a 12.9 mile stretch from Craftsbury Outdoor Center to the town of Lowell. Lewie appears to be having doubts about joining me. Yesterday’s adventure — CT Section 27, which took us from Eden Mtn. Road to Craftsbury — was pretty taxing. Several impassable portions meant we had to constantly re-navigate on the fly and do some creative problem-solving in the punishing 89 degree humidity. A relatively easy 7 miler became a hot mess of something more like 12.

In the end, he can’t help himself, and Lewie leaps into the passenger’s seat as I load my stuff into the car. Dog is my co-pilot. Behind me, Mia has her own co-pilot: Meg’s striking stripe of white running from between her ears to the tip of her nose is visible in my rear view mirror as Mia and I drive tandem to the Northeast Kingdom. It promises to be another challenging day, but the world looks different with good company along.

The dirt road on the west side of Little Hosmer Pond takes us downhill and uphill and out to Rt. 14, which we cross into a field not currently occupied by the nearby horses, swishing their tails in the shade of a lean-to. An easy coast around the perimeter of the field and we duck into the woods. A few more up-downs and a cornfield later we find ourselves on the historic Bailey Hazen Road which passes through a sawmill and becomes a heavenly shaded path along a river.

Up and over a ridge and onto an old farm road, we surprise a quiet gardener, tending her foxglove and rock gardens on the farm she and her husband have run for more than 40 years. She tells us the story of how the house used to be over there and the barn was once full of dairy cows. She removes her gloves and occasionally wrings them in her hands and asks us what we’re doing out here. Not used to company, perhaps, yet she doesn’t seem to want us to go. She gives us a little smile and tells us we have quite a few miles to go yet.

Before a long hot stretch of dirt road at the foot of Lowell Mountain, we take a quick break in the shade while the dogs pant and we shove handfuls of nuts in our mouths and gulp water. The giant wind turbines along the ridge move lazily above us and to the west. Lowell Mtn. forces my run to a walk more than once and I resist the urge to scold myself. This is, after all, the second 90-degree day in a row. Give yourself a break, I remind myself silently. There are still hours to go.

At the bottom of Lowell Mountain, we rejoice in a well-deserved downhill cruise and meet a retired dairy farmer turned hemp farmer out for a walk. He says he’s surprised our dogs didn’t bark at that bear. What bear? we ask. The one that just crossed the road here and went up into the field next to you, he says. You didn’t see it? We didn’t see it, which I’m sure is exactly what the bear had in mind.

Jay Peak is a marked jag on the horizon and we aim more or less right for it, through the hemp rows and through a tree line and straight into a swath of wildflowers and strawberries which we pause to pick. From here it’s an easy trek for the last few miles through more fields and some pine needly woods paths and only a little bit of swamp out onto Clark Road and across Rt. 14 to the waiting car.

In a stroke of sheer brilliance Mia suggests we take off our mud sodden shoes and socks and walk barefoot for the last little bit across the roughly cut grass — a welcome tiny scouring pad massage for our achey hooves.

Mia climbs in her car, we wave goodbye, and she makes her way north to Canada. I turn south, toward home. Lewie is asleep on his feet, poised between the two front seats, his head dipping like a dashboard bobblehead. Hours later as I crest Middlebury Gap, a pomegranate-dipped giant peach of a sun on fire is disappearing behind the cool Green Mountains.

leaving eden

The run begins in a wildflower meadow next to a stonewall lined dirt road in Eden. Yes, Eden is the actual name of this town in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It is a feast of beauty, a garden of eye-candy, especially on a summer day. Sparsely populated sprawling open farm land, ridge lines of beech, yellow birch, and enormous stands of sugar maples, and mountain ranges to both the east and the west. It’s also a mecca for mountain biking, alpine and nordic skiing, hiking, really excellent beer, and trail running. So, your basic standard fare perfect Vermont playground.

Lewie watches, already panting as Camelbak straps and shoelaces are adjusted. It’s beyond hot already — humid, oppressive, sweltering, your run of the mill climate crisis Hades kind of action. In other words, a great day to knock off Catamount Trail Section 27. As our first bit of luck would have it, the trail markers lead us almost immediately toward a shady stand of birch and maples. And also voracious deer flies.

In July the pastures are fenced for cows, horses, alpacas, and goats, and since the trail is intended for winter use, I spend much of the day’s run re-figuring my route on the fly in a vain attempt to follow the CT while also respecting all those No Trespassing signs. This involves much flailing about, deerfly swatting, and map unfolding and refolding. Occasionally I get to actually run on a trail, but today those moments are rare.

A truly epic swamp crossing fail takes a chunk out of my energy stores I wasn’t counting on, leaving me drained, frustrated, and already mentally taxed. I’ve wasted half an hour only to bail out and re-find the last pre-swamp CT marker back where I started. I need to pace myself and keep my wits about me. More map gymnastics ensue.

A kind woman on the campus of Sterling College confirms where I am on my now deerfly blood-encrusted and sweaty map and helps me puzzle out an alternate route near Craftsbury Common where I’ve been retracing steps, looping, figure 8-ing, swearing (quietly so as not to draw attention), and dehydrating for awhile now. She brings Lewie a bowl of water and listens politely as I tell her about my weird quest to run the Catamount Trail from Massachusetts to Canada. Funny how sometimes when I tell people what I’m doing it sounds really cool, and other times it sounds like my sanity is debatable. Both are true, perhaps.

A hundred million detours around more fenced pastures, down paved roads, through intersections, and backyards (oops, sorry about that) and exactly no Catamount Trail later, Lewie and I sprawl under a tree near the south end of Little Hosmer Pond watching the unloading and launching of kayaks by regular people who have normal thoughts such as, Wow. I’m noticing it’s a million degrees out there. This is a good day to paddle about on some nice cool water and maybe take a swim. I look at Lewie and wonder which of us is nuttier. Me, for driving this insanity bus, or him for continuing to climb aboard.

back at it

Memorial Day weekend, CT section 21 (Rt. 2 to Bolton Valley) and CT section 22 (Bolton Valley to Trapp Family Lodge)

On the drive this morning I watch the mist climb up the side of a mountain and think about how science explains it while poetry describes it. I have no words for what I am seeing — neither scientific nor poetic.  

It is 6:09 as I pull out with hot coffee in the cup holder and Lewie in the passenger seat. Fog creeps up the east slope through evergreen, birch, maple, and beech from its settled spot above wet grass on the Hancock side of the mountain. Driving north the fog becomes thick enough to hit the brakes a little, just in case. The sun on my right breaks through and I glance left in time to see a fogbow just off to the left, near the cow barn on Gene’s Road. I can’t remember ever seeing a fogbow before. Didn’t know it was a thing until just now.  The light is green-yellowing the just leafed out trees. We see this again on the run a few hours later, the fog long gone, but the green-yellow quite bold, especially behind the white and charcoal birch torsos towering out of the ferns.


Climbing up out of the late spring woods, the seasons go backwards. We begin at late spring, but soon find ourselves in a place and time of several weeks ago. Early spring, muddy, unfurled fiddlehead ferns and still flattened brown leaves only recently unburdened of deep snow. A long slog uphill and we find ourselves, panting, in late winter. Snow pack. Softened, but not letting go just yet. The air is cool and we are glad for long sleeves, despite sweating from the long uphill run. Up and up and up, gaining altitude, somewhere between 2500 and 3300 feet, where things have greened, optimistically,  despite the stubborn snow. Water is running and footing is uncertain and sneakers sink deep into the cold muck.


Up and down the ridge it is an obstacle course of mud and rock and blow-downs and still snow and pine needle carpeting. It smells amazing. The wind slithers between bare limbs, pushing balsam into our nostrils. Lungs and legs labor, everything in working order. I can’t believe it sometimes, how fucking amazing it is to be running up mountains. To be alive.


You’re bleeding, Laura says, gesturing with her chin toward my knee. We pull out the map, more necessary for topographic curiosity than anything else. We swipe at our calves and the backs of our knees for ticks and gulp water and breathe deeply, blown away by the view. Amazed at our bodies that carried us here. Marveling at our lives and that we are allowed this kind of woods-frolicking.


Later, after a porcupine and a trout lily and trillium filled descent back into late spring and a long easy downhill we are — in late May — feeling full on summer. Long sleeves are put away.  The gorge off our right shoulder tells us stories about cold dips on hot July days and we revel in how easy it is to just run, forever, on trails through the woods.


not now

The assignment was to write a poem about writing a poem. I was climbing the ridge behind my house when the first whisper of this idea blew past my right ear. I chased it down my favorite trail through the forest for an hour, all the way back to the house, kicked off my muddy running shoes and sat down to write. At which point, of course, my mind went blank.

not now

[poor emma sits in the bay window among the plants behind me
so silent I don’t realize she’s there at first
I haven’t seen her all afternoon
I thought she might join me on my run as she often does
I race through the woods while she races through my brain
now, winded, sweaty, I sit down to put words to paper
and I hear her, just there
over my left shoulder]

pppssssssst
no poor emma, not now. I’m trying to remember how the mountain is blue with layers of purple.
I’m trying to describe how there are streaks of red across it where the hardwoods are budding out and how the red is both close and far
like a star in the night sky that you can’t really see if you look right at it
but if you slide your eyes an inch to the left or right
it becomes perfectly clear.

Heyyyyyy heyyy I’m a monkey
please, Poor Emma, I’m trying to concentrate.
I’m trying to put words to the sound of water running under spring snow
and how when the crust gives way under my foot I sink to my ankle in sharp cold goo
and how scaryfun it is to cross a snowmelt pregnant river in late March.
I need to remember the sound that wind makes without leaves.


Ooooohhhhhhh dirty dishes in the siii-iiink,   dustbunnies on the staaa-iiiirs
[ignore ignore ignore; tip tip tap tap tap, backspace backspace backspace]

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh
[inhale                          close eyes       exhale]

In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight
[...magenta, no; crimson, ugh too cliche; ruby, mmm, not really the right descriptor…]

aweeeema-weh, aweeeema-weh, aweeeema-weh, aweeeema-weh
POor EMma!                    -- please!
I’m trying to understand how the woodpecker’s trill bounces off the trees behind me in the woods
and how the weasel’s body does this undulating dance along the edge of the pond
and what it feels like when you hear the geese for a long time before you can find them in the sky.
I need to envision how the grey and charcoal of the birch work together
and where the yellow begins on the tips of the balsam.

[my scold turns Poor Em’s taunt into a sulk
she wraps her fingers around the rosemary stems
and flicks brittle houseflies into the corner of the window.
Po’ Em  just wants to be seen, to be heard, to have a life outside the south-facing bay window
and all I want is for her to ssssshhhhh
so I can focus
and find the words to finish
this goddamn
PO  EM]


even Jeanine

the hens have been massacred again
their bodies are scattered
blood-orange blotches in the snow

their once brown eyes are milky now
awkward legs thrust out, stiff, ridiculous
three lifeless bodies crowd the doorway
two others are flopped near the gate
one severed head occupies a corner of the coop


even Jeanine lies limp


Jeanine survived one attack already
we found her hiding one morning
surrounded by gore and carcasses
her right eyeball dangled from its socket for weeks
it dried up, shriveled, and one day fell off
like a scab


this time Jeanine is not so lucky
thousands of copper and ebony striped feathers
litter the pen, collecting in corners
a few slip through the wire, drift across the snow
one undisturbed egg is their final offering


somewhere
a weasel licks blood from its fur
curls itself around its full belly
and rests


rules (and breaking them)

Offered here, a series of haiku or possibly senryu, inspired by reflections on growing up (mostly) country in the 1970s and bouncing back and forth between small-town New England in the summers, and rapidly developing suburban Colorado during the school year. When I wrote this the only poetry rule I knew was that haiku follows a three line, 5-7-5 syllable (or sound) count. I had never even heard of senryu. Recently I learned that haiku is supposed to be written in present tense, the speaker should not be in the poem, it is traditionally an observation of nature, and a season is implied. Senryu tends to be more about the human experience, perhaps highlighting our humorous frailties. A quick search of Japanese haiku masters reveals that the “Four Greats” regularly took some liberty with the rules. And modern haiku (and quite possibly senryu) are not necessarily held to that standard anyway. Ugh. Still, mostly ignorant, I now know just enough to understand that this is likely a butchering of the art form’s original intent. Or, for the optimist, a wobbly attempt at participation in the continued evolution of interaction between humans and words.

wind chimes are the song
of sweet summers at Tay-Gwen
my grandparents’ farm

rural western Mass.
green rivers, backyard ponies
eighty days a year

the other nine months
roaming elk herds and highways
seven thousand feet

Ponderosa pine
suburban Colorado
dusty, arid, blue

the world was modern
everything faster, and new
me: just not, not quite

just not belonging
the other kids were cool, smart
I was naive, raw

nineteen seventies
striped shirts, bare feet, cut-off jeans
two brown messy braids

tree-climbing tom boy
chucking apples from stone walls
the youngest of three

my two big brothers
always faster and stronger
me: not keeping up

crashed my bike one day
no hands on the handlebars
me: wrecked in the dirt

one was lost in work
one was lost in the bottle
no one else saw it

bloodied chin and palms
bike chain dragging behind me
embarrassed, mostly

untethered we ran
before seat belts and helmets
dusk was our curfew

granddad

I can’t recall ever hearing Granddad speak more than a word or two at a time until after my grandmother passed away. Grandmom reigned. Her voice was at the center of things, saying words to each of us individually, all of us collectively, organizing us, keeping us in line, directing the flow of events. Granddad was her right hand man, somehow always just a beckoning distance away. She called Granddad “Quartz” — an accidental childhood nickname he gave himself, unable to pronounce his own name, Clarence.  Quartz! she would call from wherever she was, and Granddad would pause from his newspaper or work bench or garden plot to fulfill her request. My grandparents married in 1929, just as the United States was sliding into the Great Depression. Forty plus years later, the kitchen drawers and closets exploded with empty plastic bread bags, twist ties, crinkled paper sacks, old shoe laces, rubber bands, and a million other useful and useless items. They were string savers. “Waste not, want not” was a lifestyle, a guiding philosophy, and it was passed along to my parents, and to me and my brothers too. In elementary school, the occasional luxury of carrying my lunch in a crisp new brown paper sack brought me indescribable quiet joy.


Grandmom made us magic eggs for breakfast (neither my brothers nor I can account for what made them “magic” but it’s what she called them). We were instructed not to spill any food on the carpet because there was no dog to clean it up like we were used to at home. Granddad cooked pancakes one at a time. My brothers and cousins and I sat around the table with sticky chins devouring them. He moved from the griddle to the table, balancing a steaming hotcake on his spatula. His rule: whichever one of us smiled the biggest got the next one. Granddad was the sweetest man I ever knew. The kindest, gentlest soul. He brought bowls of cherry tomatoes in from his garden and put them on the table for us. We popped them in our mouths like candy. Granddad gave us underdogs on the swing he had hung from a branch and played Pepper in the back yard with my brothers. His old wooden bat cracked the ball. My dad and two brothers took turns catching, the sound of the ball splatting into their leather mitts, the voices of men and boys in the backyard. I watched from the steps because it was a boy thing. I was not invited to join them and did not know I could ask. I was the only granddaughter, an anomaly. Grandmom brought me outfits that matched, gave me dolls to play with, and ran a soft brush through my long hair, freeing it from my two functional braids — a startling departure from my usual tom-boy hand-me-down jeans and tee shirt wearing, tree-climbing, scab-picking preferences.


Each summer we visited Grandmom and Granddad on Ashland Ave., where beyond the weeping willow the sandy lawn disappeared into the meadows and salt marshes. At night the lights from the Atlantic City skyline twinkled at us from across the bay, tall marsh grasses swaying in the breeze. It was an innocent time: we caught fireflies in jars, ran barefoot, and slathered butter across ears of corn grown in Granddad’s garden. At dusk we ran behind the DDT truck as it made its way through the neighborhood. My older brothers and boy cousins pedaled fast on their bikes while I ran, the only girl, the youngest, not keeping up. It was training, I suppose, for years later when I would follow my brothers down ski hills in Colorado. They were racers, pounding gates and flying down black diamonds. I did not like to go that fast. Not yet.


At the beach, Granddad lifted me onto his shoulders keeping me safely above the terrifying waves. Chest deep in the Atlantic Ocean my dad would launch my brothers by their feet from his cupped hands, their lithe, tanned bodies arcing into the water. Grandmom brought a cooler with Granddad’s garden tomatoes and cheese sandwiches for us all. Years later my brothers and I recalled the youthful hilarity of eating “sand”wiches at the beach and the torment of crunching course grains between our teeth as we chewed. Late in the afternoon, we returned salty and spent from the beach and used the hose to rinse off outside, the last to go shivering from the coldest water. Grandmom gave us clean rough towels for drying off.  The only bathroom was on the second floor. The best view in the whole house was out that second story bathroom’s eastern facing window while sitting on the john. At the edge of the marsh even on the hottest summer days there was always an offshore breeze. Towels and bathing suits flapped from the clothes line. Upstairs, not napping, I listened to the wind blowing through the window screens.


Grandmom had a stroke one winter. My dad and Granddad sat by her side, squeezing her hand until the end.


When I was thirty, my dad and I traveled back to Pleasantville to visit Granddad.  With the tape recorder rolling, we sat around that same smile-big-if-you-want-a-pancake table and asked him questions about his relatives, his childhood, his life. He told us about his first job with New Jersey Bell Telephone and how during war time he was literate in morse code. He remembered traveling west as a small child with his parents in search of a better climate for his mother who was recovering from tuberculosis. Granddad used short wave radio to communicate with people all over the world. He recounted sweet memories of courting Bess (Grandmom) and their more than 65 years together. Granddad said he would do it all over again in a heartbeat if he could. He drove us to the cemetery where his grandparents are buried and showed us the farmhouse where he grew up, long since abandoned, dilapidated, covered with vines. In the driver’s seat, Granddad placed his hands at 9 and 3, pinky fingers tucked inside the wheel. He talked for hours, and days. It was the most I had ever heard him speak. It was as if in all those years of quiet he’d been saving up his words and now they flowed out of his mouth like butterflies. He spoke of his mother, a kind woman who died too young. He was only four years old and had no real memories of her. His eyes filled with tears when he told us about his Grandmom Hanna who raised him and loved him like he was her own son.


Granddad played the violin — fiddle, actually — a subtle term difference I didn’t notice at the time, but I now think of as an indication of his sweet humility.  It was not the stuff of concert halls and velvet curtains where audience members in stiff collars sat with perfect posture. His fiddle was an instrument played for no audience, just for the joy of it, by a man who spent many years working with his hands. The specialness of it was lost on me as a child. I didn’t know it was golden, it was all just happening and I was simply in it. Nearly two decades have passed since Granddad pulled his bow across the fiddle strings for the last time. My dad and brothers reached hands over the side of a boat, releasing his ashes into the swirling black water. I don’t remember our final words to each other or the last time I saw him. What I do remember is sitting barefoot on the wide wooden stairs, elbows on my knees, chin in my hands, watching his hands make music.



mortals

We drive down snow-covered roads past farmhouses, stone walls, winter camps, and trailers. Past stately pines, their highest branches pushed and pulled by the March wind. Snow wisps are freed from their little pine needle prisons, released back into the winter world. Twisting roads carry us past open pastures, snow-covered ponds, long driveways, and dark woods. Goats chew their hay, contentedly clumped together under a lean-to. Maples are claimed by sap lines and No Trespassing signs. Dirt turns to pavement and the road begins to climb. We come upon a doe, crumpled in the opposite lane, glassy-eyed, unmoving. Her neck is broken, twisted at a grotesque angle. The driver, her fate-maker, sits helpless but unharmed, awaiting the police. He says he is fine and waves us on. There is nothing we can do. And so we go. Slowly, wordlessly, a little sad now. We climb into a low hanging snow dumping cloud. It drops an inch in an hour.

Mia and I stretch skins onto our skis, slap packs on our backs, and slide onto well-traveled tracks. My four legged pal Lewie takes point and is soon racing ahead, up the Long Trail. Up and up and up. We climb through enormous birches and ancient maples. They are beautifully grotesque giants from another time. We spook a massive pileated woodpecker, red and black and white flashing up the trail, quickly out of sight. The sun is nowhere. Our hoods collect with snow. Our bodies power us forward. Sweat lays against my skin, untouched by the 16 degree air which cannot find its way through my five layers on top. Our hearts siphon relentlessly and our lungs are on the job like fireplace bellows, begging for oxygen as we climb up and up and up.

Goshen Mountain rises up before us, all curvy and ivory and gorgeous. She is tempting us, offering herself to us like a winter goddess, quietly daring us to ascend her three thousand voluptuous vertical feet. We put our heads down and go, dutifully onward, and the soft and perfect snow cajoles us along. Fifty two minutes tick by as we breathe and sweat and move arms and legs until we arrive.

In the woods, in winter, we are mountaining. It is not to conquer, but to join this warrior tribe of ancient rock, stooping trees, graceful pine boughs, and wind. The summit is a snow globe of white and grey and cold fine feathery snow. The stunning view hides behind an ashen curtain of modesty. She will not show herself — not today, not for us, no matter how hard we worked to get here.

We change quickly, pulling skins from our skis, finding dry mittens, business-like and swift as the sweat dries and the cold gusts swirl around. Winter and this mountain have no concern for two women and a small dog, shivering on top of a peak. We know our place. And so, with little pause and no ceremony, we leave her, this Goshen Mountain goddess. We leave her as we found her — standing in the wind, alone, mighty, hauntingly beautiful and wordlessly awaiting her next callers.

Like puppies, full of foolish glee, we descend. Down and down and down, through her fluffy white contours, freeing ourselves. We leave tracks behind and push heaps to the sides, dodging trees and boulders. This mountain goddess harbors a seen and unseen bounty and we feast greedily all the way down the hillside. Our shins graze the arms and fingers of Buck Brush as it reaches up from its white winter blanket, patiently waiting for the warmth of some other day to birth its bat shaped buds.

At the end, we startle four does, scraping and nibbling on what they can scavenge beneath the cover of a behemoth hemlock. They gaze at us, nostrils flaring, ears twitching, curious and still. They are brown-eyed, straight-necked, alive.








fortune

I am sitting cross-legged in the dark, reading by headlamp. The rest of the house is a still silence I’m trying hard not to break. Turning pages, sipping tea, watching the sky get light. I get dressed and slip out the door, pulling it closed carefully, making no sound but for one final click behind me. Outside the sky is blue-yellow, the air is sweet and crisp and the sun is not yet over the horizon. The overnight gift of fresh new powder covers everything, a perfect and teasing blue winter light. Lewie looks up at me as I put on my skis. Heading out into the fluff, my little four-legged pal takes a jolly lead, filling his nose with new sniffs. We cruise past farmhouses, eagerly gobbling up this delicious early morning gift. High open fields are hugged by acres of tapped sugar maples awaiting the spring sap run.

Later, there is chatting and planning and movement in the kitchen as oatmeal bubbles in the pot. The day stretches out ahead, full of possibility and new trails to explore. Smiles stretch our pink winter-kissed cheeks. Our zestful spirits can not be contained. Hearts pounding, words flowing back and forth, legs and arms moving us forward through life. It’s marvelous, this thing we are doing: frolicking about in the Northeast Kingdom on a weekend in February. Creating time and space to come together and romp around in this endless winter beauty. Our sweet good fortune twirls around the room, lays herself across the table between full bowls of hot food, dashes from woodsy trail to high meadow vista, and curls up next to the roaring wood stove. We are alive, together, whole, privileged. We dutifully and gratefully wring every bit of joy from the day and each other.

On another in-your-face day of good fortune I find myself in a warm room filled with magnificent people, hot food, and good cheer. Again, so mind-blowingly lucky. We are toasty and fed, healthy and free from oppression. Autonomous, self-directed, independent, educated. I’ve somehow been invited into this circle of cool, outdoorsy, intelligent, fun, edgy, wonderful women who gather from time to time to talk about written words and the ideas they ignite. We talk about books we have read and books we’d like to read next. Sharing ideas and laughs and wine while dogs roam from one set of petting hands to another. Outside it is bitterly cold and the crescent moon opens herself to a sky full of stars. A sky we gawk at as we say our goodbyes and head for home, each of us, to a place much like this one: warm, safe, where people who love us are waiting.

And now today, another stunning day dawns. A bluebird sky and sunlight streaming through windows. Another best day stretches out ahead. The light, the tops of trees, the birds. This place is painfully beautiful. I tromp through the woods with EB, answering her questions, asking some of my own, looking at winter shadows. She pauses now and again to photograph leaves, ice formations, the light, trying to capture the sometimes brilliant and sometimes very subtle beauty all around us. Lewie darts across the frozen crust of snow, in perpetual pursuit of invisible animal scent contrails. We are animate, breathing, conscious, and inexplicably given another day to live. It humbles me. I gush with dumb-struck gratitude. It can’t be overstated: we are impossibly fortunate.

dark, then light

The last sixty days of the calendar year inspire deep burrowing under blankets and a retreat from the world. The end of soccer season is both a colossal let down and a quiet relief. I have been emptying my heart and soul into the work of coaching and team building, squeezing out every last drop of thought, time, energy and myself for the girls and the task at hand. Then to end of season meetings and evaluations and banquet and tying up loose ends. When all this momentum and energy rolls to a halt, the pull to go within and find quiet spaces takes over. I follow these urges like an over-tired, weepy child being led by the parent’s hand. When the season ends I come home after the day’s work and have little left for much more than a warm mug, soft blankets, quiet. I give in to couch-lock, some nights making my way to my bed before 7pm, feeding my body with all the sleep it didn’t get between August and November. I eat cheese and bread and spicy soups. I get pale and soft. I am not beckoned by my art brain nor the outdoors. I am in. Deep. Inside the house, inside the blankets, inside myself.

It is a state of being that is fully foreign to my other 300 days of the year. And it’s kind of delicious.

Then, in January, something … happens.

I climb out of the chrysalis I’ve spun into a new year. Snow and freezing cold and lengthening days and the beginning of the next cycle. A whole new 365 days lie ahead, full of hope and opening and possibility. Goals to set, mountains to explore, trails to ski, birds to feed, journals to fill, eggs to collect, sunrises to notice. Tears to cry, people to hug, dogs to pet, cool clear water to drink, mountain powder to glide through, friends to love, words to write. It’s all stretched out ahead. Waiting. Beckoning. And as before when I allow myself to be led weeping, exhausted, emptied out into the cozy dark, I now let this first month of the year lead me up into the light, out of the house, into the woods, back into the world.

Oh, January, how I love you.