This morning as I stepped out the front door to get the paper, which was not there (no big surprise, as delivery seems to be run on some sort of lottery), the air was so cold that it shocked my nose. It was the kind of cold that stings the face and brings tears to the eyes. Nevertheless, it had that deep winter freshness to it as if it was too far below freezing that it could contain no impurities. Not that I lingered in my bare feet and thin clothing. Someone once proclaimed that a beautiful winter scene is best enjoyed looking out of a window from a room with blazing logs in a fireplace.
We’ve just returned from the other side of the world, New Zealand, where it is late autumn and the air is balmy and the temperature is mild. In fact, we came home with some dread after looking at the weather predictions. At LAX there were a couple of hours to spare, a short layover where I took advantage of the confusion of jet lag to have an American IPA, something I’d been missing. The Kiwi beer is better than the Australian, but it still isn’t up to what we brew here in the US. And, while I was enjoying my 20 ounce glass, I checked the weather for Missoula. It had not improved and still looked like it was going to be a nasty, cold arrival home.
There was no time for beer at the Portland airport, but I did chance to check to see, once more, if Missoula would be as cold as predicted. The answer, of course, was “No” as it would be colder than expected.
I’d prepared myself as best as I could, not having a parka or insulated boots to don, but I did have some long johns as well as a flannel shirt. I also had an insulated raincoat with gloves in its pockets. After landing in Missoula, I was fairly protected from the blowing snow on the walk from the plane to the terminal. I grumbled to myself, but I really wasn’t cold. I was merely anticipating the deep cold during the days ahead.
Something changed inside of me after Mignon picked us up and we were riding in her car, looking out at the deep snow along the road. Part of my internal transformation was inspired by the late afternoon, winter light that turned everything into a dreamy soft color that seemed to be a muted pink. Also, time seemed to stretch out as the road was slick and drivers took their time, and the traffic seemed to flow along in slow motion. It was almost like being high.
Contrary to what many people will think, I had not indulged.
The next day, after a twelve-hour sleep, I got up rather excited about what the day might bring, and I had a purpose. Even though our walk had been cleared the day before we returned, there was another four inches of snow to deal with, and the city actually will fine people who don’t get the snow off their sidewalks (not that I’ve actually heard of anyone getting fined). I put on my cold weather gear, grabbed the pretty blue plastic shovel and went to work.
The work felt good, and it was fun building the mountain of snow from the back yard. It’s huge now, almost as tall as I am. And, hopefully, next week there will be more snow to add.
It has been almost a week since we’ve returned home, and we still are enjoying the novelty of winter. The bitter cold has caused a collection of hoar frost on the trees, and the river has nearly frozen over. Most days have been cloudless and the sky has that incredible blue quality that appears only when the land is covered with snow. It is good that we didn’t miss winter.