Ode to Snow

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Brighton Ski Resort, Utah

Winter is a time for contemplation. Everything takes a little longer to do. Food must be warmed, layers must be compiled and worn, windshields and sidewalks must be scraped and shoveled of ice and snow.

Whether you are in the midst of knee-deep snow yourself or whether you only dream of it, I invite you to listen to my new snowy playlist on Spotify while indulging in some wintry reading (sources cited) and photography (all by me) below. Enjoy.

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Laramie, Wyoming

“Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.” -From Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter”

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Southern Wyoming

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'” -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

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American Fork, Utah

“Everything is flowing — going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches… While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood… in Nature’s warm heart.” -John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra 

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado

“One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land…” -From Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man”

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Centennial, Wyoming

“It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the street, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but impenetrable curtain. In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” -Truman Capote
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Steamboat Ski Resort, Colorado

“A few feathery flakes are scattered widely through the air, and hover downward with uncertain flight, now almost alighting on the earth, now whirled again aloft into remote regions of the atmosphere.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming

Love and warm wishes to all from the wintry American West.
Visiting the Poudre River

Visiting the Poudre River

As many of you know, I began my graduate studies this fall at Colorado State University in creative writing. An assignment in one of my classes required that I choose an outdoor “site,” which I am to visit on a regular basis, take notes, and then journal about it later. I’ve been visiting the Cache la Poudre River, which runs through Fort Collins, via the city-owned Poudre Trail, for a little over a month now. On my last visit, Friday September 30th, I took my camera along with me. Here are some excerpts from journal so far, along with a few photos.

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A sign for the Poudre Trail via Lee Martinez Park in Fort Collins, CO

August 20

I arrived at my site at 3:20PM. It was 86° Fahrenheit and mostly sunny, with puffy white cumulonimbus clouds in the north. I was sitting on the south bank of the river, the water flowing east. The river appeared almost a copper color because of the stones in its bed. The current was rather swift –as I could tell by the passing inner tube floaters—like a slow jog. According to the markings on the underside of the Poudre Trail pedestrian bridge over the river, the water was just under three feet deep.

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Willows and cottonwoods on the Poudre’s north bank

All around me were dogs, children swimming, and more people walking, running, or biking on the paved trail. Through the trees and over the sound of rushing water I could hear people cheering, laughing, and chatting. There was a constant sound of crickets chirping, and an occasional whisper of breeze through foliage.

In the water, a fresh four-foot Russian Olive branch with all its leaves floated by. I noticed stray, straight spider-silk threads in the grass and in the elm branches above me. Slowly a dragonfly flew by me toward the east. Some individual sparrows crossed the river as well. Dogs barked in the distance, and thunder could be heard coming from the north; the clouds grew darker across the river.

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September 12

I always thought the Poudre River was named after snow powder, especially since it drops 7,000 feet in elevation from the Rockies through a narrow, chiseled canyon, to conjoin with the South Platte River east of Greeley, Colorado. It actually refers to French Canadian trappers, in the early 1800’s, hiding their cache of gunpowder there during a particularly bad blizzard. The Poudre River is Colorado’s only nationally recognized “Wild & Scenic River.”

Behind me, a woman running west clears her throat. Two bikes tick east. The sun clouds over.

September 17

Today the Cache la Poudre River is just over one foot tall, the pedestrian bridge informs me.

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This means about 775 gallons of river water, of Rocky Mountain snowmelt, are flowing beneath that bridge every second. What seems like a humble stream to the eye—especially with monumental rivers in my mind, the Colorado and Snake nearby, the New and Mississippi and Chattanooga out east—is really a powerhouse, always on the move. Small yellow leaves are floating downstream, to the east, away from the Rocky Mountains and toward the South Platte River, toward the heartland. I read that brown trout spawn here in the fall, but I see no fish in the clear water down to the copper-y bottom, littered with round granite stones. Sometimes I hear the fish—a sudden catch of water, white flash slap above the surface.

Along the bank two blue jays stutter squawks at one another. One flies into view and lands on a yellowing cottonwood branch. His body is a jewel blue and he wears a white collar just above his breast, beneath a blue cockscomb. Later I learn this is the edge of the blue jay’s livable range, as far as they come; the foothills of the Rocky Mountains halt them the way they halted railroads, the way they still halt clouds and precipitation.

I think about the river, about the trout. What would it feel like to live in water constantly flowing in one direction? Not like an ocean where the tide is a rhythm of give and take, but always east, the way our ancestors felt pulled westward continually. I ask a fisher friend about the trout—the brown, the rainbow, the cutthroat. He says you can often go back to the same spot on the Poudre or Snake or wherever, the same hole or stone, and catch the very same fish—they don’t stray too far. My concept of fish life has been shaped mostly by the story of spawning salmon and—let’s face it—Finding Nemo, so this was news to me, that fish don’t drift or migrate or explore in spite of the debris that floats right by, that the river doesn’t become their timeline on which to travel. I thought a good metaphor might be that little conveyor belt in sushi restaurants that slowly slides enticing sashimi and rolls right before your eyes, for the taking. I guess a river might feel more like that to a fish—food constantly coming and going all day, all night, abundance set spinning by the engine of gravity, by the churning of season, of freeze and thaw.

September 22

I count thirty-five bleats of train horn in the span of several minutes. A helicopter hovers somewhere to the south and car engines rumble to the east. Behind me, bikes pass and dog leashes jingle. Occasional bits of conversation slip through the weeds—two students stressed about the new semester, a mother making safety-related requests of her young child on a miniature bicycle, two middle-aged women building each other up. A propeller plane’s engine rattles from above, behind cover of low, gray clouds.

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Cottonwoods framing the Poudre River Trail

I have just heard how little land in this country remains untouched by human-generated noise. If not an interstate, then a highway. If not a highway, then a railroad. If not a railroad, then trails for ATVs or snowmobiles. If not a trail, then a reservoir with a marina. And if no marina, then planes etching their contrails above, or helicopters leading rescues of people lost in the wilderness. Silence deserts. The scarceness of silence. This must have devastating effects on animals, especially those who rely on their hearing to find prey, to hunt, to stay safe, to not become prey, to survive.

When I hear a sound—a splash of water, birdsong, crackle of twigs or dry grass—I hope for a sighting of an animal—a trout, a blue jay, a crow, a grasshopper. When animals hear our omnipresent noise—engines whirring, tires squealing, horns honking—what do they hope for?

September 30

All the vegetation and leaves are more yellowing today, rustier—oxidized colors. There was a light drizzle all morning. My field notes are speckled with the occasional raindrop ink-stain. The Poudre River was measured at two feet high, higher than my last visit because it’s been raining up in the mountains, to the west.

Little white wildflowers upstream catch my eye. I walk over unsteady pebbles and a large cottonwood root to get to them. The root is far enough away from any trees that it’s impossible for me to tell to which it belongs. Each flower is in various stages of unfurling—some are fully open, dripping their petals into their watery reflections.

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As best as I can tell, the flower is Carolina Bugbane, or Trautvetteria Caroliniensis, which is native to this area

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Carolina Bugbane is in the Rananculaceae family, or the buttercup family, and seems to prefer wetter habitats

I find myself thinking how it would feel to live in a river that can get as low as one foot deep—to have distance infinitely available to you (seemingly), but know your explorations, your knowledge, were all limited to one foot by the width of the river by its length. I suppose human life, until the inventions of the airplane and rocket-ship, is fairly limited in that way as well—we’re basically stuck to the earth’s surface, most of us. This, I think, is the origin of the desire to fly, our envy of birds. We can’t see the earth’s rotund nature from our limited depth, the slice of air in which we live. We’ve had to escape this space to see the world for what it really is—a sphere remarkably like and unlike any other.

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Utah: Land of Skiing, Land of Canyons, Land of People-Actually-Live-Here

I reckon it’s about time to write a blog post that’s not Christmas-related *sigh*. Things in Laramie, Wyoming have been pleasantly not-too-cold and not-too-windy, about which I could, admittedly, be happier. We always find reasons to complain, don’t we? There may be no wind and it may be 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but it just so happens to be cloudy and there’s dirty snow all over the road and people’s front lawns. I still won’t venture into our icy, snowy backyard to clean up the strewn mess Laramie’s wildlife has made of my attempts at a compost pile. (Thank you, Matt, for pointing this out to me, as I haven’t been back there.) And it gets dark too early. And I can’t wear T-shirts. So there.

I can’t complain too much, since I emerged from the holiday season with an electric blanket and a crock-pot, both marvelous modern-day inventions for which I have electricity and my mother to thank. Thank you!!!

Last month Matt and I drove to Salt Lake City to add on to the UNC reunion that was slowly forming there. Though it may seem we are forever away from Utah, I-80 actually crosses southern Wyoming from Laramie directly to Salt Lake City, so it’s only a 5.5-hour drive. Again, that may seem like a lot, but an all-interstate drive for us is a rarity, and it means both minimal animal crossings and well-maintained (aka plowed) roadways.

Windmills on the drive in southern Wyoming

Windmills off of I-80 in southern Wyoming

(Side note: in case you didn’t know, Matt totaled his car last summer hitting a pronghorn on a state highway coming back into Laramie. Pronghorn are colloquially referred to as antelope. They are one of the fastest land animals to tread this earth. Matt maintains that the pronghorn ran into his car, and not the other way around. I am inclined to believe him, for a multitude of reasons.)

We stayed in Salt Lake City with our fellow-UNC-graduate-and-climber-friends Kyle and Tallie. We actually visited them on the exact same weekend last year, which I wrote about here. This time, other UNC folks joined us as well – Dylan from Hong Kong/San Francisco (he just moved back to the states!); Kevin from Boulder, Colorado; and Sara, who lives in Salt Lake too. We also briefly met up with our friend Jon who lives in Durham, North Carolina, and happened to be in town for the semiannual Outdoor Retailer show, which is a huge trade show for the outdoor industry where companies like Patagonia, Mammut, Prana, Outdoor Research, Marmot, Black Diamond, MSR, High Sierra, and Big Agnes show off their upcoming goods (outdoor clothing and gear) for the spring season. We were in town the weekend before the show began, so as we were departing, all the hotels and ski areas began to fill up with people in town for the OR show.

Just driving around Salt Lake City is scenic – you are surrounded on almost all sides by beautiful chiseled peaks.

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Kyle, Tallie, Matt, and I went climbing on a warm and sunny Saturday at American Fork just outside of town. The approach (climber-speak for the hike into the climbing area) at the bottom of the canyon was still snowy, but the snow on the trail was packed down enough that it didn’t require snowshoes.

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Once we switchbacked our way up to the base of the sport climbs, the sun was shining enough to keep us toasty.

Kyle rappelling down after competing a climb at American Fork

Kyle rappelling through blue sky after completing a climb at American Fork

The rock at American Fork is a heavily featured limestone, and its white coloring allows you to more easily see holds for your hands and feet as they generate shade in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the rock is still loose, meaning that both rocks can fall onto climbers from above, and that climbers can accidentally knock or pull off chunks of rock while climbing, creating potentially dangerous situations. In climbing areas where loose rock is prevalent, you’ll see climbers knocking their fists against blocks of rock in order to listen for a hollow sound, ideally indicating the looseness of the hold.

As you can see from the pictures, despite warmer temperatures, there was still snow in upper parts of the canyon elsewhere.

American Fork Canyon, UT

American Fork Canyon, UT

On Sunday we met up with Sara, Kevin, and Dylan to ski at Brighton Ski Resort, just outside the city. Matt and I endeavored to ski through the trees a little bit this time, which requires more technical prowess but also more brainpower, like mountain biking single track versus road biking.

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort. Yay helmets!

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton, naked aspen trees below

Brighton is a lot bigger than Snowy Range Ski Area, our local ski mountain outside Laramie, so the runs are a lot longer. You therefore spend comparatively less time on the lift getting to the top of the mountain, which I appreciate, as I tend to freeze my butt off on the ride up.

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

It’s been a relatively dry winter out here in the west, so there wasn’t much new snow at Brighton. We still had fun on packed powder! No ice, thank you very much.

On Monday morning before driving back home, Tallie, Kyle, Kevin, Matt, and I went climbing at Big Cottonwood Canyon (I’m fairly certain of this, although there’s also a Little Cottonwood Canyon, so feel free to correct me, everyone). Unlike Saturday at American Fork, this was cold and cloudy climbing, which is hard on your little fingers as they grasp at chilled rock.

Kyle belaying Kevin up a sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Kyle belaying Kevin up a 5.12 sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Techniques for keeping hands warm in cold climbing conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Whining about it
  • Bringing a hot drink in a thermos
  • Hand warmers in your fleece-lined pockets
  • Alternate placing hands on warm parts of the body, such as the back of the neck, the collarbones, or the armpits
  • Bringing a dog along so you can place your hands in their armpits (legpits?)
  • Go skiing instead?

After a couple hours, Matt and I said our goodbyes and drove to Brighton again to meet up with Jon who, like I said at the beginning of this post, was in town for the OR show. We bought a one-run ticket, which allows you just one ride up the ski lift, and skied down with Jon before heading back to Wyoming.

Now if we could only convince everyone to reunite in Laramie this time… what do you think, guys?

Love to all!

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This post was not sponsored by Black Diamond. (We just like their helmets.)

 

There Are Still Leaves!

Dear reader, I admit to taking a month-long hiatus from this blog, in case you hadn’t noticed. So, Things That Have Happened:

We’ve been in Wyoming for over a year now, which is hard to believe. (We’ve survived!!) My car was inoperable for over a month, Abe got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Matt’s back in school, I’m taking a class at the University of Wyoming this semester – you know, the usual.

Back when it was decidedly summer, on a solo hike up in the Snowy Range (on the way back from this, my car broke down the first time)

Back when it was decidedly summer, on a solo hike up in the Snowy Range (on the way back from this, my car broke down the first time)

The weather has been surprisingly terrific these past few weeks, aside from the two times it’s snowed. Don’t worry, the second time it didn’t even stick, but it still zapped my zucchini plants. The grass is staying green, and there are still leaves! Up in the mountains the aspen have lost their leaves to the wind, but here in the valley all the deciduous trees are a shimmering yellow. Even some of the hollyhocks and rosebushes are still blooming, which is hard to believe.

I just can't get over the beauty of these mountains

I just can’t get over the beauty of these mountains

The Snowy Range is quite snowy right now, as I can see from town. Walmart has sold out of all its chrysanthemums, and pumpkin season is in full swing. I triumphantly wore shorts under a dress today, which is almost not cheating.

I call this one, "Pumpkins in Love," obviously

I call this one, “Pumpkins in Love,” obviously

Mostly it’s the little things right now. Last night I roasted a goat leg for the first time (oregano, garlic, crushed red pepper, white wine). I’m forcing myself to write more, which really means I’m just writing poems titled ridiculous things like, “Wasabi Peas Say No to Complacency.” We try to get outside and/or go climbing every weekend. Last week I upgraded and bought a real ski jacket, which feels a little like over-commitment. Does this mean I have to actually wake up early to go skiing this winter? Do I have to try the black diamond runs now? Do my skis need to get “tuned up” or whatever? So long as I can still order the hot chocolate with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles every single time.

Why do I bother raking in a state famous for its wind? Because grass that's still GREEN!

Why do I bother raking leaves in a state famous for its wind? Because grass that’s still GREEN!

It’s easy to get complacent (to which wasabi peas would say, “NO!”) about the nice weather we’re currently having. In North Carolina, I was complacent about nice weather because the weather was almost always nice, so it became acceptable to spend a perfectly sunny Saturday morning inside eating oatmeal and watching Netflix, because odds were the next Saturday would be lovely too.

Abe is always complacent

Abe is always complacent; it’s kind of his lifestyle

I remember a bouldering trip Matt, our friend Kyle, and I took in the winter. The Winter. In the mountains of North Carolina – Rumbling Bald, to be exact. I wore my down jacket and a hat, and it was excellent. We stayed in a motel (you know, because it was “cold”) and borrowed a bizarre and murderous movie from the front desk that scarred us all for life. Bouldering here in the winter is out of the question unless you don’t mind packing in a broom and shovel to dig out enough room around the boulder for your crash pad, but there are many other adventurous options, such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing (see my post about the Poker Run).

And, if all else fails, there’s always our sweet little house to keep us not-cold and not-windy.

Just before sunset, the golden hour

Just before sunset, the golden hour

Love to all.

Visits Facilitate Adventures

A couple weekends ago Matt’s cousins came to visit us from California. His cousin Kelsey was passing through on a roadtrip with her boyfriend David, and Kelsey’s brother Chris flew in just for the weekend. Obviously we had to throw down and show them the best of Mountain West! (Take note, Mom & Dad!)

Friday night we had people over to celebrate Matt finally finishing his exams (which he passed, by the way)! I made some homemade ginger beergaritas and set out snacks. Afterwards, at their request, we took Kelsey and David to the Buckhorn, a historic downtown Laramie establishment with a real live bullet hole in the mirrored wall behind the bar.

The next morning we had some breakfast burritos and made our sleepy way out to Medicine Bow National Forest for some snowshoeing. Matt had rented us snowshoes the day before. And yes, there is still snow on the ground up there – like, deep snow.

From L to R: Kelsey, Matt, and David on the ascent

From L to R: Kelsey, Matt (our fearless guide!), and David on the ascent

We parked in a pull-off next to some snowmobilers and cross country skiers, about 45 minutes from our house, strapped on our snowshoes, and headed waywardly toward Medicine Bow Peak.

View of a frozen lake on our way up

View of a frozen lake on our way up

The snow’s consistency alternated between icy in the shade and slushy in the sun, which is why we were there in the morning, before the snow turned entirely to slush. Even snowshoes can sink in snow like that.

Matt, David, and Kelsey taking in the view

Matt, David, and Kelsey taking in the view

As you can see by our outfits, it wasn’t particularly cold; the snow is still there because there’s so much of it, though the temperature does drop to below freezing at night up there.

We did it!

We did it!

After the somewhat treacherous descent (snowshoes aren’t really designed to go downhill), we had lunch at the Beartree Tavern in Centennial on the way back to Laramie. Kelsey and I had their famous “bestest ever” green chili, and we all shared some pie a la mode for dessert.

Chris flew into Denver, rented a car, and met us at our house in Laramie that afternoon. With a bad weather forecast looming, we drove about a half hour up to a small sport climbing area off Happy Jack Road near Vedauwoo affectionately called Beehive Buttress.

We got rained on almost immediately, but we stuck it out through the scattered showers to do some climbing. It always surprises me how much colder it is up on the mountain than in the Laramie valley. The wind is usually worse once you’re on an exposed, rocky mountaintop too.

Kelsey and Chris had done a little climbing when they visited us in North Carolina a few years ago, so they made all the climbs we put up for them look easy. (Also I’m convinced Matt’s genetics make him and his cousins predisposed toward climbing.) Abe didn’t do any climbing, but he found some mud and promptly sat in it.

Back in town, we rushed to Jeffrey’s before they closed at 9 (on a Saturday night, yep. Welcome to Laramie!) to get some dinner.

On Sunday morning we drove up to Vedauwoo to show our visitors the classic climbing areas. We hiked around a little, met up with our friends Meredith and Bart, and convinced them to put up a fun 5.8 crack climb called Captain Nemo for us.

Meredith belays Bart as he places gear up Captain Nemo, 5.8

Meredith belays Bart as he places gear up Captain Nemo, 5.8

We got rained on a little at Vedauwoo too, but it blew over shortly and the sun came back out to keep the Californians semi-warm.

The view from the bottom of Captain Nemo

The view across the valley from the bottom of Captain Nemo

Kelsey and David had to drive to North Dakota that afternoon to continue their roadtrip, so they left Vedauwoo around noon. Chris, Matt, and I started to get hungry (we hadn’t packed lunch, oops!), so we drove back into town to get burgers at The Crowbar & Grill.

Chris at the bottom of Captain Nemo

Chris at the bottom of Captain Nemo

After lunch we went back up to Vedauwoo and did a two-pitch 5.7 called Edward’s Crack. “Pitches” is just an indicator of the length of rope. So if a climbing route is longer than a single pitch, you can’t get all the way to the top with a single standard 60-70m rope. Instead, the climbers have to stop at some point on the way up, set up an “anchor” from which to belay, and inchworm their way up the mountain; the leader climbs up first with the rope, and the other climber follows, bringing up the rest of the rope, and this pattern continues up each pitch of the climb.

Doing a multi-pitch route with three people is a little complicated and time-consuming, so we all had lots of time to check out the view from the middle and top of the climb.

We watched the sun set from the summit, and rappelled back down in time to hike back to the car at dusk. Sufficiently worn out from all that climbing and hiking, we crashed on the couch and watched half of a movie while eating some shaved asparagus pizza, yum!

I had to work on Monday, but before I woke up at 7, Matt and Chris were already gone snowhoeing up at Medicine Bow Peak since Chris missed it on Saturday morning. Needless to say, Matt was pretty exhausted when I came home at lunch to walk Abe. He basically lived on the couch for the next couple days.

If the weather chooses to be agreeable, you really can pack a lot of adventures into one little weekend here in Laramie!

Love to all.

“Spring”

There are many different types of snow. As I write this, it is almost May in Laramie, Wyoming, and it is snowing. This particular kind of snow doesn’t accumulate; it blows around in the awful howling wind and sweeps across asphalt like particles of sand. Perhaps due to the wind (blaming everything on the wind gives me some semblance, however false, of control), this snow doesn’t appear in flakes, but in little globs, like dippin’ dots.

But less colorful

Yesterday’s snow varied from huge, puffy wet flakes like locusts to our typical tiny, dry, sparkly flakes like crystals.

Backyard snow and courageous green grass

Backyard snow and courageous green grass

Dry flakes also blow around like sand, separated, but they are so small that they just barely catch the light before throwing it back at you, like fairy dust. Very cold fairy dust.

Wet snow, the kind that’s suitable for snowballs and igloos and snowmen, we almost never get. It’s just too dry here. That’s the pretty snow, with visible intricate flakes that people catch on their tongues and hold in their mittened hands.

I think my poor tulips are done for. The grass and other plants are convinced it’s spring though, and not just “spring.”

Go little guys, go!

Go little guys, go!

So now I’ve resorted to planting things inside. The weekend before last I finally found a fiddle leaf fig tree (say that five times fast!). They’re so beautiful!

Our living room is starting to come together!

Our living room is starting to come together. Yes, that pillow is made of mountains.

Such big, cheery leaves! That is why I keep it away from the windows. I’ve also got a few seedlings going, which I started last weekend before the onslaught of “spring” snow.

From L to R, that's zucchini, red russian kale, and sunflowers

From L to R, that’s zucchini, red russian kale, and sunflowers

But right now it’s snowing snotty little clumps, sideways. Like, literally sideways – parallel to the ground, no angle. It’s like watching a painfully unrelenting screensaver. I’m pretty sure this means I get to eat an extra piece of rhubarb crumb cake now. Here’s the recipe. You’re welcome.

Here’s to “spring,” or, as we like to call it in Wyoming, “Brrrrrr.”

 

Firsts

I was jamming to this song (“2080” by Yeasayer) while cutting up some shallots the other night. I’ve always misinterpreted one of the lines to be, “It’s the first spring some have seen.” (These are the real lyrics, if you’re interested.) I prefer my version because it reminds us that spring is special and beautiful, and that some of us are experiencing that wonder at nature’s beauty for the first time.

When my little brother Sam was four or five years old, I was visiting home during that season’s first snow-shower. Sam had his nose and the palms of his hands pressed up against the glass door, staring out at the falling snow in disbelief. It had snowed in years past, but he’d been too young to remember.

“Sam,” I said. “What’s that?” I pointed outside.

“Snow!” he cried.

“What’s it like?” I asked him.

He rolled his eyes at me and, as much as a four-year-old can sound exasperated, said with a sigh, “I don’t know.” As in, how should he know? I’d figured he would answer with something like, “wet,” or “cold” – something he knew about snow without actually having experienced it, but instead he was perfectly honest. He knew snow when he saw it, and that was all he knew about it but, as evidenced by his nose on the glass, he was eager to learn more.

And who wouldn't be eager, with gorgeous snowy trees?

And who wouldn’t be eager, with gorgeous snowy trees?

I think many of us value first experiences to a certain extent, new parents especially: first smile, first steps, first word, first day of school. There are new experiences for us adults to celebrate too: first car, first home, first vacation, first international trip.

While listening to that Yeasayer song, a reading (The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele, chapter 6) I’d been assigned as part of my yoga teacher training occurred to me, and a particular passage of that reading, about letting go, or non-attachment, which is also an important tenant in Buddhism (I’ve found that Christians tend to refer to this concept with the terms “idols” and “idolatry”). The idea is this: if you’re spending time, energy, and effort regretting a past action or experience; holding onto some false conception of your identity; or even something that makes you sad – a poorly ended friendship or missed opportunity – what you’re really doing is taking space away from any  new opportunities, experiences, or adventures that may come your way. If I continue to beat myself up about a bad breakup, I’m keeping myself from fully enjoying all the other relationships in my life. More concretely, if I hold onto every single pair of shoes I acquire, pretty soon my closet won’t have any more room for even lovelier heels and flats and boots and sandals that may come my way.

Children are able to have so many new experiences so easily because they are spacious and eager to fill their shelves but, as we grow older, we must learn to make space and part with our pasts.

[Don’t worry, I still keep all my prettiest shoes.]

Love to all!