I feel this space slipping away, like the snow that melted yesterday, turning to water under the high sun and running down and across the softening back roads I drove with my son on our way home from the ski mountain, passing a rapidly diminishing pint of Ben & Jerry’s back and forth between us, windows down to all the smells of the new world, singing along loudly to Good Lord Lorrie between bites. And I’ve been learning that believing/And that barely breaking even/It’s just a part of life for you and me/And I’ve been living with the loneliness/It’s got down in my bones I guess/It’s just another phase of being free.
Only a few nights prior, in the company of the same boy, I’d skied by headlamp into a squall, the spiraling flakes magnified by the bright-lit cones of light cast from our foreheads, the trees waving and creaking in the wind. We skied to the height of our land, then cut across a wet area where often the deer bed in fall, maybe it’s a bog, maybe it’s not, and on this night a grouse burst from the snow directly beneath my skis. Its frantically beating wings brushed my arm and if only I’d had half a mind, I could have reached out and plucked it from the air. But in that moment half a mind was half a mind too much, and the bird landed high in a nearby spruce. Rye and I skied on into the storm.
It’s been a serious winter. Snow on the ground since mid-November, and only one significant thaw. In many places, the snowbanks along the back roads are higher than the roof of our car; mailboxes are carved out of their depths and driveways split them, narrowed to car-width tunnels by the accumulated snow. The cows’ fence – a good 40-inches off the ground – became buried in places, and they finally decided they’d had enough of their winter stomping grounds, and stepped right over it. And so now are confined to the smaller, plank-fenced paddock until the barbed wire reappears. We’re behind on next year’s firewood – the snow is simply too deep for the tractor to navigate – but not too far behind; during that one extended thaw, back in the old year, I felled and skidded a nice pile of sugar maple logs, and I know right where the rest is coming from.
I am writing plenty, though not here, obviously, and mostly for money, which of course is at once a blessing and curse, though I’m not so jaded as to realize it’s more of the former than the latter. I’m grateful for the work, as I’ve been grateful for this good winter, and also for the way the grouse’s wings felt against my jacketed arm, delicate and desperate at once, the bird rising fast through the slow falling snow. And I’m grateful for those of you who continue to read here, despite my long absences. Thank you.