I’ve become bored with reading the weather forecasts, after what feels like such a long winter. We’ve been in a mild pattern, which has felt like the January thaw we never had. Plenty of rain and some sunshine has made a serious dent in the snow pack. The river of ice on our road is now interspersed with sections of wet gravel, and the snow has receded from roadways, exposing raw dirt. Melting snow is a process which mirrors how winter looses its grip. The piles start to sink down in a slow weary sort of way, pock-marked and dusted with dirt and pine needles. The jagged border of thin ice at the bottom, where it meets the ground, drips and begins to lift up, as if it can’t stand it anymore. The wreckage of the past three months begins to be exposed–a deer leg with fur still attached, sticks out of a dirty snow bank along the edge of the road, as well as the Budweiser can, tattered cardboard, and general rubbish which someone threw out their truck window weeks ago. It’s a rather ignoble end to those early months of winter, when light fluffy snow softly blanketed the ground, and the low sun dusted it with diamonds.
Nevertheless, with the Miller family as house guests this past week-end, we all went for a cross-country ski in the State Lands forest nearby. The sun shone some of the time and it lightly rained on us part of the time. The groomer was unable to set track in the snow conditions, but we enjoyed following the company of moose who had made tracks of their own earlier in the day. There were vistas of snow-covered peaks, as well as little tiny snow fleas speckling the snow. And, we talked about we could smell the first hints of the earth waking up beneath us. That lovely quintessential spring smell of geosmin, as John, our resident naturalist explained, the compound produced by tiny microbes which are working the soil. We talked about how the lake level is going down, getting ready for the eventual mountain run-off, and the timing that is involved in order for us to place a big anchor, on the dry lake bed, which will be chained to the floating mooring ball for our new sailboat. I went to sleep that night, imagining our little sailboat attached to the lighted buoy 100 feet off shore, and the sound of the rigging, lightly tapping against the mast in the night.
This morning, there is a hard cold rain and I can’t see across the lake. One week from today, we will be on our way to the Swiss Alps, where snow is melting even faster. Single digit temperatures are rumored to be returning here in a week or so, and maybe that will happen for the ski races in Switzerland as well. But, what I find my thoughts drifting to is how it will be in mid-March, when we return, and how when it is coldly raining then, I won’t be talking about the end of Winter, but the beginning of Spring.