I haven’t always loved winters at the cabin. A good snow, yes, but days of unrelenting wind and gray weather often sent me fleeing back to the comfort of my home in Boulder, where I could more easily distract myself with the Internet, TV, email.
But this year I’ve decided to embrace winter. For one thing, I love the quiet. There’s very few cars on the roads and hardly a conversation to be heard. The whine of reconstruction—bulldozers replacing bridges and rechanneling creeks—after last year’s floods is gone. It feels like everything is slumbering, waiting. It’s just me out here walking on the road, with the stellar jays and chickadees.
Winter tests my patience, a good lesson for me. Cross-country skiing this week, I became frustrated with how long it was taking me to get ready: change into my ski boots, add rain pants and extra socks, yank and pull at all the layers of clothing to make sure everything was arranged just right and there were no gaps for the cold air to penetrate; make sure I had extra gloves, a jacket, a scarf stuffed in my day pack. I only had a couple of hours, and I wanted to get going.
On the trail, every time I pulled my camera out from the side of the jacket where I had tucked it, so if I fell while skiing, it wouldn’t hit the ground, I had to rearrange everything all over again. If I’m careless in this cold weather and try to do things too fast, I drop my gloves in the snow, and I’ll have to wear wet gloves. If I don’t sip water from my Camelback every five minutes or so, it freezes. If I forget an extra pair of socks and my socks get wet, my feet freeze. Small things, but I think of how summer is so easy: slip on the hiking boots, grab a jacket, hat and my camera, and head up the trail.
I admit I’m an impatient person, always straining to do the next thing, to get something accomplished. Winter forces me to slow down and be more mindful.
At the cabin, instead of grabbing the empty water jug to refill at the outside pump, I first have to dig a path through the snow. I have to bide my time to start a fire in the woodstove—the arduous exercise of getting it started, having to watch it carefully so it doesn’t go out, getting up every 10 minutes or so to throw another log on the fire.
I see others who are impatient with winter: in the park, an SUV that had gone off the road, undoubtedly someone driving too fast on ice and snow.
As always, I learn from nature: the rabbits that must rely on dried grasses until April, at the earliest, when new shoots of grass appear; the fish that sleep beneath the ice until the first thaw; the aspens that prepare themselves all winter to send out new leaves in the spring. Underneath these two feet of snow lies the earth, just waiting, drawing itself in. I too must learn to be patient.