Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Snowy morning

I watch from the window as Bear moves through our woods, a solid black shadow against the pure white of fresh snow. She picks her way slowly around gray trunks, becomes partially obscured, following the narrow path that ascends gently away from the house. She carefully investigates every inch of the white ground before her, pushing her nose down into the snow.

I am on the second floor of our house, my hands wrapped around a steaming mug of tea, looking down through the bristling branches of pine trees to follow Bear’s progress. The woods seem more tangible, more open; nooks and crannies well defined by white against not white, illuminated by an almost otherworldly glow. Bear doesn’t know I watch her and somehow I feel closer to her in that moment. And then she disappears into the thick of the forest.

We woke that morning to muted white light whispering softly in through our windows. As the sky turned from deep indigo to pale pink, the treetops visible from the third-floor bedroom windows emerged from night shadow to show us their fresh white cloaks. Until that moment I thought I was happy to not yet have any snow.

The sun, travelling much closer to the horizon now, is a smudge of cold fire behind the trees, tinging the white sky golden pink. Perfect, flat light fills the house with its gentle glow and as the wood stove ticks quietly in the entryway, time slows and the world becomes very still.

For now the snow is just a thin blanket on the ground. It coats pine boughs, outlines bare branches, defines shapes. I am still standing at the window watching the pastel sky seep its colours into the forest when Bear emerges again from the woods on a different trail. She strolls along the gentle curve of the path, stopping occasionally to snuffle at the snow.

It is relaxing to watch her quietly interact with this altered world. She moves purposefully but without hurry. Her hips sway casually with her soft footfalls, leaving a trail of wide paw prints in her wake. I stand at the window, a layer of cold air cushioning the space between me and the glass, and watch until she is directly below me, two stories down. She is cloaked in a swath of white from pushing through the spaces beneath saplings laden with snow.

I meet her at the door with a towel and sweep it the length of her body as she steps inside. The snow is partially melted and refrozen and crunches under my hands. Bear swishes her tail as I give her a quick kiss on the head, brush my hand against her cold ear and inhale the fresh, crisp smell of winter on her fur.


  1. A beautiful word painting! In a letter to his brother, Van Gogh wrote: "I want to paint what I feel and feel what I paint." You've taken his advice to heart. When I read this entry, both the physical beauty and the evident "feeling" the passage evokes solidly place me in the natural scene. Artistic brushwork!

  2. Thanks! That's a very flattering comment. As always I think perhaps you are too kind.. but I'll take it! Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Word paintings! That is exactly what you do! I have never been able to come up with a way to describe it, but that's it. Your writing is quite different from the typical "essay." You have a unique ability to...(Ian, I'm going to borrow your analogy) "brushstroke by brushstroke" create the scene with words, building as you go. As I read, I felt that feeling, the excitement and serenity of the transformed environment. I used to love it when I lived in Minnesota. Everyone used to tell me if I stayed there long enough, I'd eventually come to hate it. That doesn't appear to be the case with you, but if it's true, I'm glad I left before that happened. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  4. Thank you Brenda for those kind words. I'm so glad you enjoy reading these posts, I enjoy writing them.

    I'm not sure I could ever hate the snow. The cold can wear on you sometimes, and lugging firewood I could do without, but - as you put it - the excitement and serenity of the transformed environment has magic in it I think.