Ten Below

Cold.

The kind of cold that demands forbearance. Day after day after day of near and sub-zero temperatures that finds it’s way into our bones, and daily conversations.

Just after finishing opening chores I came off the mountain to take a break in the ski lodge when someone asked “How’s the snow?”

“Good skiin’!” I replied enthusiastically. “Cold. Damn cold.” I thought to myself.

Before chores were over, cold found it’s way between my goggles and hood. Like a dog might snarl before a full bite, cold nipped my cheek, reminding me, warning me, this kind of cold will freeze flesh in a very few moments. 

“What did you have for breakfast, miss?” 

After the words left my mouth, I realized how personal a question that was to ask a total stranger. Maybe even inappropriate.

“Eggs with ham, and cheese.” the woman replied patiently, almost with a hint of contrition in her voice.

“That sounds good, but no bread?” I asked. “No, no bread.”

“Well don’t be shy about having a snack if you feel like it. Pretty cold, you’ll burn it up quick.”

The cold caused me concern. For myself, and anyone else sharing the outdoors in this arctic air.

I didn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria as I usually do.

“Did you eat lunch today?” asked the cafeteria cashier when I saw her in the lodge later in the afternoon.

She seemed satisfied when I recited “Some chips and cheese, two hot dogs on buns, and homemade cookies with cherry stuff on top that someone’s wife had made and sent up to ski patrol base for us to share, and plenty of hot tea to wash it all down.”

More ‘crude but effective’ than ‘healthy’ diet I thought. No matter. Whatever you throw in the furnace on a day like today will burn quick just keeping the animal warm.

“That’s good – you must have good clothing on too.” she said.

“Yes I do – and lot’s of it!”

Riding the lift later, another ski patroller asked me if I knew how many layers he had on. Before I could say anything, he declared “All of them!” I inventoried my own kit and counted seven.

The weather station never reported temperatures warmer then two below zero. A steady and gusty wind kept the windchill hovering between 24 and 27 degrees below zero.

The kind of cold that provokes compassion. The kind of cold that makes you feel lucky and grateful if you have a warm bed and enough heat. 

The kind of cold that makes it obvious how important it is we tend to each other’s, and our own animal’s well being.

Orchid Buds

Orchid Buds

With highs forecasted to venture into the teens every few days, and lows unspeakably cold for the foreseeable future, it’s nice to be reminded of unrelenting warmth.

Naturally residing on tropical trees, this individual calls home my living room window.

Now cast in front of a winter landscape, she bloomed last June and held her blossoms until November.

Separated from sub-zero air by a mere pane of glass, this orchid plant’s buds swell bigger day by day; promises of color and scent from far away tropical lands.

Snow Making

Busy with winter preparations and with unseasonably mild weather up until this week, I pretty much forgot about winter itself.

As initial snowmaking concentrates on the north west trails, the trails facing my backyard have been unilluminated. Last week or so, the Delaware lights were lit during the day. “Tony probably testing the lights, and making final adjustments before the season.” I thought to myself.

For the past few days, the steady low roar of the snow guns round the clock, is unmistakable.

The other night while having some soup at Chet’s Place, Brad comes by my table with a look in his eye and says “Prolly this week…”.

Jack then turns to me, “You ready?” more of a statement then a question. I think a moment, and utter a low “yeh”.

NOAA says snow and cold, some of it single digit, for the foreseeable future.

Work last nite and tonite bartending for people enjoying themselves and each at their holiday banquets. Pay some bills tomorrow. Stock up on food and supplies monday. Maybe cook some to put in the freezer.

Then ski.

Just ski.

Oak Sentinel

At the right time of year, it’s almost impossible to not notice the abundance of acorns in places near the top of Elk Mountain.

On a walk several years ago, I gathered, and planted a few in the side yard.

Now, this tree and a few of it’s kin planted nearby, conspicuous seasonal sentinels, splash the last glimpses of color as autumn fades, nods toward winter.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Wikipedia reports:
The red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the family Picidae. It breeds mainly in the eastern United States, ranging as far south as Florida and as far north as Canada. Its common name is somewhat misleading, as the most prominent red part of its plumage is on the head; the red-headed woodpecker, however, is another species that is a rather close relative but looks quite different.

How much different can heaven be?