It was an interesting storm the past couple of days. We started out at nine degrees on Sunday, but the day warmed up quickly and we got a good eight inches of snow, interspersed with rain, by yesterday afternoon. (You have to live in the northwest to experience rain at eighteen degrees.) Arctic air is scheduled to arrive tonight and five below is the forecasted temp tomorrow morning. Then, by the week-end, more snow. Serious Winter, we all keep saying.
I got a text the other morning from our summer time neighbor to the north, who spends the winters at their home in North Carolina. She had heard that Flathead Lake had frozen over. It almost did, twenty years ago, our first winter in Montana, and back in the day, it would happen every ten years or so, and there would be stories of trucks driving across the lake. All thirty miles long, fifteen miles wide, covered in ice. With the cold we’ve had so far this season, there is talk. And, I can see the white band of frozen ice, moving out towards the center of the lake, from the western shore. It glowed by the light of the moon last night, and it felt ominous, deep in the middle of the silent night, like an ice creature creeping towards my door. Such is the darkness in January.
The days move by slowly, but there is already more light at the end of the day. In the laziness of January, I like to sit by the fire with my book, in the hour before it’s time to start dinner. Yesterday, the sun was so bright at times that I needed to shield my eyes, and then a skiff of wind blew the heavy snow off the trees, and I was suddenly in the middle of a snow globe. There is something about watching the light leave a January day. I’ve written a random quote in my journal, from somewhere: “daytime drops like a tear down a cheek.” This balance of dark and light, so seasonal, so rhythmic, yet so fragile and delicate, is a more compelling story than any of the stories, in any one of the books I pull down from the shelf.
Winter: Tonight: Sunset
by David Budbill
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first
through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop
and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.
I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening
a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.