Ice has started to form. First as a film, a thin crust on a bucket of water under the drip line on the north side of our cabin, catching the melting frost each morning as smoke from our wood stove warms the roofline. Last week I could tap the bucket and the surface would crack. Now it is thicker, more durable. The bucket becomes a solid, heavy mass of black ice.
Ice will remain and grow and thicken for many months to come. It becomes a part of our lives, a semi-permanence in our world for half our days, like snow covering the peak of Indian Ridge outside my kitchen window. There as I gaze from the warmth of our cabin. There for more of the year than it is gone, lost in the lazy warm wash of summer, the short season of open roads, seasonal life abuzz on the mountain like ants on a picnic.
The sun still has warmth. We feel it, savor it with long lunches and coffee on the deck in shirt sleeves. Enjoy it while we can so openly, as it fades to fleeting moments, delicious in its precious glimpses. Yet no matter how temperate the front of our cabin will get in the protected balmy radiance of the log wall mid day, tucked in the back as a secret from the sun, the ice will remain, solidify and swell. It will not thaw out completely until at best April when we watch the pasture fade from white to patches of brown, and we can drive the road once again.
Yesterday morning the thermometer read thirteen degrees. Will we no longer see a morning reading above freezing until next spring? We begin to look around the ranch, our home, our lives, decide what we need, what needs to be done, quickly now, under pressure for time we put on ourselves, the season puts upon us, in the short days remaining before the snow covers us and the mountain. Stocking up for winter concerns us no different than the Stellar and Gray Jays and tree squirrels, all anxiously stashing their cache for the approaching season.
The ice multiplies, intensifies and spreads in the undisclosed pockets and private parts of the mountain, on the north slopes, tucked in behind the trees, there behind the cabin where the frost line begins to dig deep. Silence starts to grow. Our blood thickens and slows as we watch the mountain clear and settle, recover from the season, and prepares for the long reprise of winter.