Snow settled on the deck outside the sliding door beside our table as we finished dinner last night. The first of the season. We removed our socks by the fire and walked outside on the shockingly frigid surface to celebrate its arrival.
This will melt. Our early autumn storms don’t last. They bring with them the panic that “this is it” and we remember we are not ready. We do not have our hayshed full, our pantry stocked, meat in the freezer, horses hauled to winter pasture, tools picked up from the ground that could be buried and invisible until the following spring.
They also bring the peace of the winter season. The slow long letting out of breath that has been so rushed and panting through summer. An ease of being. Long nights wrapped up reading with my boys by the fire. How I love the shorter days…
The thermometer reads twenty-one degrees on the deck. It will be colder out in the open, in the garden, on pasture. I lovingly carried in the last survivors of the potted petunias hanging outside the cabin indoors last as the wind blew with a arctic warning, freezing my hands earlier in the afternoon as I rode horseback in the sunshine with heavy gloves, and still the chill penetrated so that unsaddling became a fumbling mess.
I try to be out riding as much as possible this time of year. I know it is almost over. The image of the cowboy galloping through the snow never rode up here in winter. Our snow is deep. I would be breaking the legs of my horses. We take the winter off. I brush them, feed them, talk to them, remind them that spring will return, enjoy their rest because then I will have them out working the trails again. They look at me with their big brown eyes and seem to understand, though it is hard. Winter is long for them.
In the meanwhile, it is not here yet. We have time to ride, to rush around and prepare ourselves for the long white season. We watch the humans leave the mountain, back to their “real” worlds elsewhere, a warmer, busier life far from the mountain that somehow remains with them deep inside to help them get through until they return next year for a week, a month, a season.
The elk will soon follow, though only as far as the foothills, where they are able to find food to sustain them until next June, when something calls them back up here. How strong this drive within them. Silent and unspoken, but they all know. They all leave. Often together, in one rapid exodus as a heavy snow thicken on the north slopes and the southern sides no longer thaw out mid day.
We are not there yet. For now, we will try to enjoy the occasional snow, now so dramatic between the golden blaze of the Aspen and the crystal blue of our mid day sky. How hard it is to remain present, to enjoy the here and now of such a spectacular time of year, when we know winter’s footsteps are approaching, so much to be done before they arrive. And yet we do. We do enjoy. It is hard to remain indoors amidst such magnificence as the mountain in autumn.