Having been hectically preparing for our holiday excursion back to the wider world, we missed a few posts. So we must go back a few weeks.
Monday the 17th, we spent our day in preparation for leaving the cabin for the Holiday week. We had made plans with my family on the east coast for a week-long visit, to get all three and soon to be four generations under one roof! (My sister is pregnant! I’m going to be an Auntie! This is the first baby in our family, and knowing that the bun is proofing in the oven makes me jubilant, and stirs deep feelings of familial bonding. I can’t wait to meet them, I love them already! I’ve been whispering to all the trees, “I’m gonna be an auntie, I’m gonna be an auntie!”)
We spend the day deep cleaning, organizing, and trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we will soon be lounging by a pool in 80 degree weather. We hardly seem to understand that it could be that warm anywhere else as we continue to feed wood to the fire. I keep digging around the closet to pack, and all I can come up with Are drawers full of wool socks and differing weights of under layers. I resign to the idea that we will most likely melt into human puddles.
Tuesday, the snow comes again.
It is saturated and heavy. We begin our snow chores as soon as we have finished breakfast in an attempt to keep on top of the work. We mildly play frisbee with Ruff while we work, as the effort is doubled with the water dense snow. Dolly joins us for a short while, but leaves us to the grunt work while she lounges by the fire. We stomp the trails about the camp, and dig out the doorways to all structures and outhouses. The dark falls early and we are tired but satisfied. We enjoy warm food, and retire early to bed. It snowed over 10 inches throughout the day, and lightly falls through the night.
The morning is bright, clear, and chilly. Though we dented the work to be done the day before, there is still much to do. We only have one roof rake, so we decide to split up in an attempt to speed things up. Zach begins shoveling snow off staircases and porches, while I take on raking the eaves of the roof.
Raking eaves is laborious, tedious, and also greatly rewarding. It is done with a pole that extends thirty feet, and has a small plastic rake on the end. You use it by standing a short distance away from the building, erecting the rake to the proper height, and remove the snow and ice by continuously combing the eaves and up a couple of feet on the roof. The purpose of this work is to remove buildup of snowmelt, ice, and creeping snow that crawls and drapes over the edges of the roof. Heavy snow can destroy the metal shingles, or separate and lift them from one another while ice forms. It is crucial maintenance to the structures at camp.
Having raked all the eaves the day before, I am bewildered by the amount of snow still remaining. The great amount of raking on Tuesday had carried hope and intention that with dislodging a few extra feet upwards of the eave, the weight of the remaining heavy snow on the spine of the roof would slide off. The snow did slide, but not off of the roof. A thin layer remained on the peaks, but a majority of the snow now lay in heavy folds ten feet upwards along the eaves. I stand only a short amazed minute, and then get to work. It is a simple task, but takes strength and diligence and soon, I am sweating and hooting with victory.
Most of the raked snow comes off in small brushed lumps, but with the chill of the night and morning, and the water weight of the dense snowfall, the remaining snow on the roof is heavy and solid. I rake a few flurries from the roof, and CRACK! A large solid chunk falls thudding to the ground in a massive piece. I begin to find that tapping the rake a few feet from the eaves to find weak spots will dislodge large chunks of a few feet in length and height. Zach calls with concern to check on me after a few of my happy shouts of conquest. Swinging the rake with accuracy is demanding but enjoyable and I am cruising through it with crushing speed. Whap, crack! Whap, crack!
I get to the front of the lodge where the roof meets inward at a right angle. I pull the rake up to its full height and tap the one of the corner edges. Before anything happens I hear the CRACK! The ice sheet that has formed breaks in one piece from the outer right corner across 3/4ths the length of the roof, and falls thundering to the ground. I am pretty close to the falling block, so I feel a swift brush of air the snow pushes out of its path to the ground.
The cool air sweeps my face and the moment dissipates. I stand in surprise, and transport back, years in time, when I lived on the east coast.
As a teenager, I would ride the metro, exploring all around the city of DC. In the tunnels, before the metro arrives, the lights entombed on the floor illuminate in blinks on the loading side, and the screen scrolls the destination station. Once triggered by the arrival, I would shuffle forward to stand at the very edge of the platform. Right before the train emerges from the underground tunnels, a burst of air sweeps along the platform and washes the dampened smell of darkness and cement across the cheeks of all those that are waiting. I would look across the faces of those waiting for life to shift and continue moving forward, not a soul noticing this singular moment of streaming wild breath. All of their concentrated faces looking so serene. The idea of all these people existing in different spaces, yet standing in one place was precious to me. So much like a river, the veins of the wild found in the flow and momentum of a city, individuality synchronized.
Years later, I would read a poem in college that held my heart for I knew its secret the moment my eyes set upon it.
The apparition of these faces in the crowd; petals on a wet, black bough.
Feeling warm and glowing from both poem and sweat. I move to the other wall to tap at the untouched corner in the center of the right angle. I tap a few times and nothing happens. Only a sprinkle of snow flutters to the ground. I shift closer to the wall for a better angle and tap, tap, hushed snap. The sound did not whip out into the air expectantly, but whispered a gentle librarian’s shoosh. It did not crack because it did not break off. This time, the entire cemented and frozen block slid from the roof in one piece, surging to the ground with a deep pounded resonance.
I vaguely remember abandoning the rake and leaping out of the way. I vividly remember sitting up surprised to have fallen, but not feeling particularly scared, astonished, or anything, mostly just thinking, “huh, woah!”. Zach calls out to me from the opposite side of the lodge. I call back that I am fine, but he is already on the way. I am still digging out my left leg, buried to the hip from the fallen snow when he arrives. I am laughing at the thrill of the rumble. Zach stares at me with wide eyes, and I’m not quite sure why he looks concerned, I giggle while I tell him what happened and he shakes his head. Apparently the large amount snow and ice that fell where I was standing was heavy enough that he had felt the staircase on the opposite side of the lodge vibrate and shake as it struck the ground. I look down and there is a huge chunk of icy snow next to where my head was, and the rake is broken and buried. I am completely unhurt, but Zach is shaken and sends me inside for the day. He is deaf to my filibustering arguments that I am fine, and then my resolute complaints at being kicked out of helping with snow chores. I loudly, and finally, consent.
Of course after taking my victory picture!
Thursday is more chores, cleaning, and a wonderful quiet evening by the fire. Zach tells me it will be the longest night we spend in the lodge. By the time we return from our quick tropical stint to Florida, the solstice will have passed. We wrap ourselves in the comfort and awe of our longest, darkest night, and sleep deeply.
Friday we wake to the day of departing the lodge. We are both excited to hug our families, but I do feel sad about leaving our winter den. We reread the packing lists, resort our things a final time, and make breakfast. Behind the kitchen sink there is a large window that offers a view of the ascending mountain behind the lodge. Dishes are my choice chore. I don’t mind the slower methodical work of scrubbing, and the lapping warmth of the water. I actually really enjoy the chance to do a chore while staring out the window lost in thought or daydream. It is this morning, in the light after our longest dark, and the considerable longing I am already beginning to feel for departing our quiet world and cozy lodge, that against the white snow and black trees, a flash strikes against my sight.
*I discerned, as I thought, beyond the window,
Through the window, a something orange, uncertain,
Something more of the depths–and then I lost it.
“THE FOX!” I shrill at Zach. “THE FOX! THE FOX! THE FOX!” I creech, running from window to window through the cabin searching for the spotlight of orange on white.
We finally catch sight of him through the front window of the lodge. I’ve stopped shrieking, and we stand silently watching, as the fox steps a light gait along the paths we have created. In the blanket silence it turns and stops, now looking through the window at us. Thoughtfully tilting its head, it peers through wizened eyes, a bloom of soft white collared fur, it’s head floating above orange body. It decides, and then turning, walks away. After it is gone, we grieve about how we should have run for the camera, but who could move against the mesmerizing eyes of a sphinx?
There is much more to tell, but this post is already so long. I will post the rest in part two.
Ta ta for now,
*adulterated lines 8-10, For Once, Then, Something. A poem by Robert Frost, that I often think of while I stare out the kitchen window and scrub dishes.
Read the poem. I double-dog-dare you!