Winter approaches like foam riding the waves in a deep sea, still so far from the shore. Our emotions follow suit with the ups and downs. There is balance only in time, evening out the extremes. The snow paints the pasture white one moment; the next it aspirates into the cold, dry winds and returns us to the dried, brown grasses. The air has a chill about it now, even as we stand in the paling sunlight with her elongated shadows she tosses across the horizon.
We have a resolve about us as we wait for “the big one” – the one everyone talks about, builds up, turns into another approaching doom. We have learned to hesitate with expectations. I try to refrain from assuming I know what my mountain will do. The more I am with her, the more I know her, the more I see my significance. I have no control. I learn to accept.
A drastic and dramatic time of change, for the mountain, for wildlife, for us, filled with anticipation and apprehension, a natural unease of remaining when all others have left. We get over it. We settle in like the frost in the ground, deeper every day, and become a part of what we choose.
I suppose the first few years we felt a looming sense of trepidation, following us around in so many questions and eyes and inside our own minds. Stories of those who had tried and left. Anxieties of sub-zero temperatures and snow so deep one could be buried alive by stepping off track, made bigger always by the tales of others. The unknown.
It is no longer unfamiliar, though always different, always changing. We learn not to expect, but do our best to adjust. Making plans, dreaming, such a vital part of life, of truly living, here has been a great challenge, learning what little control we have in our own hands, as we work around the weather, around the constant trials of a sorry history grasping strong and tight, clawing for its last hold.
The air space within our view becomes more still as most birds have gathered and gone. The crows remain, cleaning the last of the carrion from this autumn’s kills. The Stellar Jays stare in the window and wonder when I will break down and begin my winter feeding. I tell them the skiff of snow and single digit morning temperatures do not qualify as hard times yet. They must wait. They too are plenty prepared. They know what to expect, know how to survive. They do not need me, but always enjoy the ritual of the morning hand out. Throughout the winter, they are more punctual than I am, and chastise me when I sleep in.
Our pantry is stocked, the hay barn full, and firewood piled in seemingly decadent abundance. We sleep well at night and wait.