Thursday, November 14, 2013

Snow Drifts

     Snowflakes began to fall over the weekend and by Sunday night icy winds were howling through the moonless night.  Snowflakes were sent back up into the atmosphere, where they danced around and drifted back to earth and formed dunes across the landscape and exposed frozen bits of earth.  On Monday morning the roads were glazed with ice and snow, and the wind continued to blow.  School was canceled.  Maya cried.  She is without a doubt the only kid who would be reduced to tears upon being notified that school is canceled due to a snow day.  I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky.
Driveway Snowdrifts 
    One step and you might slip on icy earth, the next step could bring thigh deep snow.  The uneven landscape with rolling hills and tundra pillows can make travel difficult during the the spring, summer and fall; but in winter you are granted a full-access pass to parts unknown.  The swampy marsh at the rivers edge is now a frozen, snow covered trail system that allows for exploration into new parts of the woods.  I find I am absolutely transfixed by the landscape to the point where it is distracting.  The upside to the distraction is the ideas and thoughts that come from meditating on the landscape.  

Mt. Sanford at Mid-Day
      Being in this place has given me new eyes to explore the world.  I have an Aunt who loves the expression “I feel like I was just born!”, and that is in part how I feel roaming around this wild place -- as thought I have just been reborn.  Now that the season has shifted from late fall to early winter the landscape has been reborn too. 

     The blanket of snow, boarder ice along the river, and the thin dark stream of winding water creates a whole new experience for the eyes.  Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum have begun to reveal new secrets as the days grow shorter and the sun hangs lower.  The Moose Lodge looks directly at the North face of Mt. Sanford, which on a clear day is stunningly visible cloaked in greyscale darkness, magically illuminated, casting a shadowy light along the profile of Sanford, even at midday.  
Spectacular Sunset Smoke Photo By Parke 
     The howling winds sail right through the gap in our third floor door, creating a whistling sound.  That howling, whistling wind is the one element that makes me feel very far awayIsolated.  When darkness falls and the winds howl, I start to realize we are on our own out here.  It is a hard feeling to describe and we find we are still adjusting to the idea that we actually did “this”.  Experiencing it first hand lends itself to magical thinking.  Our journey here feels destined and magical occurrences greet us at every twist and turn of the road.  The reality that we are actually here feels obscure and impossible, and the nature of the situation sinks in, as it can, in tiny bits and pieces as we construct a life for our family here in this place of unfinished business that is The Moose Lodge.  
View from the river, looking up at The Moose Lodge
      On Tuesday morning we awoke to a chilly (third floor) bedroom (44 F) filled with fresh mountain air and the crispness of early winter.  I hurried out of bed and quickly piled on the best of the best layers I have, one layer after the next.  Merino wool long johns, brushed fleece long johns, and fleece pants; wicking tank, merino wool pullover, sweater, fleece vest; lightweight knee high wool socks, heavy duty wool socks, fuzzy furry boots; hat, scarf, thin gloves, felted wool fingerless mittens/arm warmers.  Then came the coffee.  By the time I finished my first cup and returned from taking Maya out to the end of the driveway for the school bus, I was toasty warm.  

The main floor of our house is where our kitchen wood stove is located.  At the present moment it is the ONLY heat source we are using to heat all three floors (2300 square feet in all).  My husband is currently working on refurbishing a wood fired combination furnace we picked up on the cheap off Craigslist.  It is a 600 pound beast of a unit that he managed to hustle into the house. My tasks for this project have included: cheerleading, moral support and hot cocoa refills, as it is just over 40 F in our basement.  Once operational, the wood furnace is a combination furnace that allows for wood burning and either propane or fuel oil as a back-up heat source, if and when the wood fired heat dwindles.  The heat is controlled by a thermostat -- which now, seems positively revolutionary.  Better than sliced bread, who cares about sliced bread? Thermostatically controlled heat is where it is at, no lie.  Once up and running it should keep our household heat regulated and ideally will result in needing to wear multiple layers outside the house, only. The next task will be sealing up the remaining air gaps and increasing the insulation and general energy efficiency of the third floor.

Snow Drifts and the Snow Blower 
     My husband’s birthday was on Tuesday.  When Maya returned from school we took the kids and dogs for a sunset snowshoe hike and returned to a very dark house, the result of another power outage.  We are still dealing with the fallout of the community generator fire back in early October and have had several planned and unplanned outages.  The most recent outage lasted into the early morning hours the following day.  I wasn’t able to attend class (via Blackboard) because of the outage, and instead was able to have a candlelit Birthday dinner with my husband and kids.  Every year, for all of our birthdays, we record the singing of Happy Birthday, and wish making, and blowing out of candles.  As I was carrying the cake across the kitchen to the dining room the power came back on, briefly, I picked up the camera, began to record, we sang, 
the lighting was perfect, Parke blew out
 the candles and then the lights went out again. 

Another Spectacular Sanford Sunset 
     Yesterday I took one of the most exhilarating showers of my life. The simple things out here can create a blissful experience simply because it feels as though we shouldn’t have indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity.  After a riverside trail ski with the dogs I was determined to shower despite the chilly temperatures.  The basement is where our shower is located and is the coldest floor in the house.  The stone walls are roughly 18 inches thick and the cool grey stone walls make it seem even colder.  In the shower the water was blazing hot and the air temperature was icy cold.  Any area that wasn’t being showered in hot water was covered in goose bumps, a strange juxtaposition of hot and cold.  An experience.  Every day events qualify as “experiences” at The Moose Lodge. Before we moved here I would have likely pitched a fit if it were 60-62 F inside the house and if the power was out on a semi-regular basis I would have likely thrown a major temper tantrum, “Oh the inconvenience!”. Living here lends itself to continual Thanksgiving for what we do have.  The heat we have is keeping the pipes from freezing up, and is keeping us warm enough for now.  When the power does go out, we roll with it.  
Unintentional Shadow Play with Honey Bearskins and Honey Mama
   Today, I am thankful for being thankful.  Living here is a gift, a blessing.  If the price of living here is being slightly chilled and having spotty power, then I’m all in, because if anything it enhances the experience and makes us feel like we are living a little wilder than we’d imagined.
River Ice Beginning to Form
“I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future - the timelessness of the rocks and the hills - all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.”