Last month, I had dreams of being in Hawaii in February. It’s my least favorite month in Colorado, a time when everything is brown, and the days stretch on, uninterrupted by any interesting weather, hardly even a good snowstorm. Spring and something green and fresh seems far away. In my dreams of Hawaii, I was lying on a soft sand beach, lulled by the sound of waves lapping, a soft breeze stroking my skin under a swaying palm tree.
But plans fell through, and instead I find myself chopping away at the ice block on the road in front of the cabin. Winds had blown snow onto the road, which had partially melted and then froze, crusted over so hard that I have to use a garden shovel to hack it away enough to get my car out of the driveway. Instead of being mesmerized by luminescent turquoise waves, I’m thawing out water jugs, cans of soup and bottles of lotions and olive oil that froze when temperatures dropped to 25 below zero one night. Even the bottle of wine froze. Instead of kayaking over deep aquamarine waters, I’m shoveling a path through snow to the water pump in the back yard.
I’ve decided the only thing to do is embrace winter: the days when the gray clouds push down over the foothills, the days on the plains when even the sky is smudged brown from pollution, the days when the wind blows so hard I can hardly make headway when I go for a walk. And then there are the days that magically appear like gifts.
Last week I came up to the cabin, even though the skies in Boulder were gray and low, a better day for curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. Heading north on the plains, an unnatural fog had settled in, making the landscape featureless, closed in on itself. But in the canyon the fog had magically transformed into a Christmas postcard, bits of ice adhering to every tree and boulder.
When I started climbing out of the canyon, the sun started coming out. I had emerged from the clouds, out of the dreariness. The whole landscape – Mount Meeker, the hillsides of pine trees and aspens, even the cabin roofs – was ablaze with gleaming crystals.
Later, cross-country skiing at Wild Basin on new powdery snow, the heady combination of the sun’s warmth, the cold moisture of the snow and the sharp winter breeze felt intoxicating. I felt more alive than I had in a long time. In the dark woods, the sun’s faint light on the snow created a blue light that felt sacred. To top off the day, I saw an animal I've never seen here before: a river otter in the North St. Vrain, which had once disappeared from the area and may be making a comeback.
One day this week, I awoke to snow falling lightly and silently. As the day progressed, the snow got heavier, a whirling mass, falling silently and steadily, like a white curtain softening the world, blurring the outlines of the neighbors' cabin and the tall stalwart ponderosas.
Who needs Hawaii?