“Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes” aren’t nearly as lovely as the ones that hide yellow snow. And you won’t find me singing about warm woolen mittens, which are just straitjackets for hands; if they didn’t rhyme with “kittens,” I truly doubt Julie Andrews would have sung about them either.
“Winter solstice marks the death of winter,” Gary wrote me years ago.
I feel the truth of it. Daily life now reflects the tone and tempo of longer, warmer days. We don’t rise early, but we do rise earlier, usually before 8:30; we still fix dinner shortly after dark. A surprising number of hours intervene, temperate and bright, perfect for wood gathering, skiing, snowshoeing, all sorts of outdoor work and play. We’ve rediscovered lunch, irrelevant since sometime in November. When I moved here, I had no idea there would be so much to love about winter, or that I would actually worry about its passing. Here’s what I’ll miss most:
1) A constant fire in the wood stove, which can be a great slow cooker or hot fire for baking, as well as a hot water heater; it keeps us warm and its dancing flames are a joy to behold.
2) Long underwear. It may not be a joy to behold, but it’s no worse than sweats or yoga pants when company comes unexpectedly, and it’s incredibly comfortable.
3) Slow mornings and long evenings spent in front of the fire in our long underwear.
4) Sunrise and sunset extending through most of the short day, with occasional sundogs in between.
5) Animal tracks in the snow. We follow the comings and goings of caribou, fox, wolverine, martens, voles and mice, and the snowshoe hare whose presence has brought a lynx to the neighborhood. We have a resident moose calf whose mom disappeared a week or so ago, and see him (or her) most days, but still count on tracks in the snow to see where he’s been and where he’s made his bed.
6) The changing beauty of ice and snow.
7) Snow travel: skis, snowshoes and sleds for hauling, sleds for riding, and mushers on sleds.
8) Northern Lights. A Valentine’s Day aurora started around 9:00 at night and was still going strong when we gave up and went to bed at 5:30.
9) The frozen river, an ever-changing highway through a landscape shared only by the animals.
10) Room in the refrigerator (which we turn off in winter) to store empty pots and pans.
I could only come up with seven things I won’t miss about winter:
1) Without opposable thumbs, what am I? That’s how I feel bundled up in gloves and mittens, which fail to protect me anyway because I have to take them off to do anything requiring fine motor skills (like putting on skis or snowshoes); once I do, they disappear or fall in the snow and turn icy and cold.
2) Yellow snow. Also, snow and ice on the outhouse seat in a layer so thin as to be indiscernible until it’s too late.
3) Traveling to town and beyond: it makes going to the airport the day before Thanksgiving look pleasant. www.indeep-alaska.com/2011/12/16/three-days-to-thanksgiving/
4) Congealed shampoo and cooking oil. Peanut oil stays liquid at lower temperatures than olive oil, but there are times when even it won’t pour out of the bottle.
5) The way the icy door refuses to latch shut, blowing open when we least expect it.
6) Trying to keep produce useable for months on end. Only carrots, onions, apples and bananas last more than a few weeks, but now — after nearly two months since we resupplied in Anchorage — the carrots don’t look great, I wash mold off the apples each morning before slicing them onto our oatmeal, and we’ve run out of onions and bananas.
7) Stepping in my stocking feet on snow tracked into the house.
We could still have a cold snap, but change is in the air. The chickadees returned three weeks ago; temperatures have been hovering in the twenties and low thirties for two weeks now, with only quick dips below zero. Spring here is a season of snow and sun, and I’m sure it will be lovely. I’m just not quite ready to give up my winter pleasures.
Sunrise: 8:47 a.m.
Sunset: 5:32 p.m.
Weather: High 26°, low 18°, mostly cloudy and calm.