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November 27, 2011

White Snow and the Montana Winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The snowpack has started to build up and once again, its effects amaze me.  I live in Montana, not Alaska, but nights are still long and days are short.  In winter, nighttime is king.  And as November nights get longer and colder, darkness permeates everything.  But then, sometime in late November or early December, the snow comes and the world is changed.  Snow paints the world white by day, and with its reflection, even a single headlamp becomes like a set of stadium lights during the night.

Of course with the snow, there is more work.  Scooping the dogyard goes from an easy fifteen minutes to a hard forty-five.  I know others do their yards faster, but I have a “no fragment left behind” policy.  I do go to the trouble of digging pieces out rather than a scraping surface scoop.  Chip shot has a new meaning for me in the winter.  But, the result is my dogs’ circles are white rather than yellow or brown. 

Winter and snow also mean more chores --- bringing in firewood, clearing gates and dog houses.  It also takes extra time to dress for the outdoors.  It took me a couple of years to get my head around this, that the time it takes to throw on the extra layers and heavier shoes for stepping out into the yard in the winter is significant. 

Even getting out on my driveway can be a challenge.  I did surmount it and make my flight to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving, but it had me concerned. 

To me, though, the winter more than compensates for the extra work it requires.  I have a fire I can gaze into 24/7 between now and early March.  I can run the dogs anytime of any day and, unless something strange happens, I’ll be on my sled within a week.  And, nutcase that I am, I do get a thrill from stepping out into the cold while staying warm, comfy in my cocoon of clothes.

With all these burdens and pleasures, the change the snow brings is still what astounds me. 

It wasn’t long ago that I read, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein.  Among the scenes that stuck in my mind were two describing the protagonist racing.  As a writer, I re-read them to see what made them really click.  The trick Stein had used was to describe the warm-up laps.  As much as anything, it was the contrast between these and the racing laps that made the speed of the latter real.  And I’m sure, it’s the darkness of late fall that makes the genesis of the snowpack so amazing to me each and every year. 

   
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