Rugged Woman Meets Ragged Mountain

January is brilliant.  To hike in January, even more so:  it is divine.

The sun gods smile down on the snowscape that surrounds me while the snow keenly winks back with a blue glint in its eye.  Vistas open as I round bends on the rolling trail and follow snowshoe tracks and paw prints.  On the way up, I walk carefully, choosing my steps with caution as the week’s thaw and freeze has left an icy path in its wake.  A lean and deft trail runner, Alaskan malamute leading the way, appears suddenly and breezes past as fluidly as a taut sailor keeling along wind and water.  I gather his grace in deep draughts.

My lungs expand and empty, expand and empty, expand and empty into the hush of the forest.  A surefooted rhythm emerges.

Snow owls are rumored, but not seen.  Only the creaks of tree limbs call across the mountain, as if aching for their missing leaves, save for the oaks and beeches – their dried and tawny remnants from last year won’t molt until spring buds release them.  It is myth that winter is barren and colorless, for as the angle of afternoon rays travels with haste across the brumal sky, silvery grays and mushroomy browns creep into craw and crevasse until the white all but disappears.

I climb a nearly two-story boulder, then chuckle at the metaphor.  In woods there are no edifices of note, nests and dams aside.  I glance down.  Lichen curls like paint chips on the oversized rock, or, I guess – it curls like lichen.  How long until I can truly see this wonderland?  How long until the mountaintop stops laughing at me?

I pick my way on slippery rocks across a half-frozen stream, watching the pellucid waters swirl under shallow sheets that soon crack and fall into a tumbling current.  On the far side, I crouch to peer at myriad architectures of ice and earth and wonder what universes are captured in these tiny crystal castles.  Who reigns in these miniature kingdoms?

Like meditating, January quiets the mind.  Thoughts slow.  The cold focuses attention, the eyes narrow in scope and see with eagle-eye precision.  A world, otherwise masked by the flurry and flutter of fertility, is revealed.

Now, I am aware of nose hairs and that soft spot in my right ankle.

I begin to remember…exactly why I came here.

Way Up In The Sky Little Lamb

THIS is why I moved here…

Today is the first day of real snow, not counting the light dusting yesterday, which was gone by noon.  The thickening white blanket alters both outer and inner landscapes.  Innocence, silence, beauty ~ all from one weather pattern, but Oh! What patterns!

While the falling flakes are enchanting, every December, heck even by the end of November, I grow to dread the songs and the merchandising and the consumerism and the forced cheer of it all.  As I venture out into Camden this afternoon, there is evidence of the holiday’s approach everywhere.  Signs for high school Christmas shows, makeshift roadside stands selling trees and wreaths, and farmhouses decked in multi-colored Santa scenes.  Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

But my openness this year surprises me;  I am not the same old Grinch.  Instead, I am embracing all that the season is bringing.  The lights are magical.  I want to go see The Nutcracker.  All day I’ve been listening to “Let It Snow,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” on the local holiday music station.  And dancing along.

Is it because I specifically wanted to spend this winter in a wintry place and winter necessarily means the holiday season?  Or is it because life is slower here and I can set the pace, letting in the goodness and light of people and place?  Or have I just been hijacked by the solitude of writing?

The truest moment I have today is on that drive.  Bing Crosby’s bass-baritone slides into my car, into my ears.  “Do You Hear What I Hear” is on the radio, and though I know every word, it is the first time I’ve truly listened.  Each character comes to life:  the little lamb, the shepherd boy, the heralding King.  The growing momentum of sharing and grace is visceral.  The excitement of the shooting star and the fatherly roar of the sea escalates within.  Then, the full impact lands ~ the miracle birth of a child ~ for what birth is not miraculous?

Caressed by Mr. Crosby’s unparalleled voice, an all-too-familiar story is made to sound as fresh as the falling snow.   So deeply do I receive this song, my eyes suddenly spill over with warm tears.  Heartache I didn’t even know I felt is soothed as I am undone by the power of words and song and snow and goodness and light.

“Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepard boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light”

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