Although we’re a good ways outside of town and are, by a lot of people’s standards, “in the middle of nowhere,” you haven’t seen the middle of nowhere until you’ve driven to Lusk, Wyoming. That is truly the middle of nowhere. For miles and miles, there is nothing except for Mule Creek Junction, and on either side of the highway there are miles and miles of beautiful, open, desolate rangeland, low buttes and rock spires, miles and miles of fenceline and windbreaks, dry washes, miles of road with the occasional mailbox and ranch signpost.With not a mountain in sight, Lusk sits at just above 5000 feet above sea level. The beauty of the high plains. And that region is glorious. I’m a forest and mountains person, so I wouldn’t choose to live in the Lusk area over, say, the Buffalo area, but that area is beautiful, breathtaking country. Literally breathtaking, today, with the famous Wyoming wind whipping the snow into a flurry, streaming it across the highway, billowing from drifts and hilltops, working its magic upon the landscape.Even a day drive to Lusk and back to pick up a friend is a wonderful opportunity to marvel at God’s creative powers. I find that they are best viewed in the middle of nowhere.
What a cold one it was today! We live in a valley, so the cold is always a little colder, and today the temps didn’t get above -5 or so. Not a good day for hiking or even playing in the snow. We went out for a little while today, but within minutes our hands and toes were aching, and we know how to dress for cold!
The snow really began yesterday afternoon, and we’re now in a winter wonderland. The trees are stunning in their wintry cover, and little breaths of wind swirl the snow up from the branches like clouds of smoke. Blizzards sweep off the roof in a sudden gust. Everything seems to hunker down under its blanket of white.
So much beauty in the snow. I love a good cold snap, a good winter chill.
Nothing like a cold snap to inspire appreciation of warmer temperatures. But I still love the cold. I love the clearness of the air, the clouds of steam from mouth of man and beast, the ringing silences and the frosty pictures on the windowpanes. I love the chill, and even the burn of cold on face and fingers and toes. The searing cold in the lungs. And then I love shivering into our warm cabin and feeling the life coming back to cold self. After what felt like a very long fall and an unseasonably warm December, we are paying for it. And I love it. It snowed gently all day yesterday, making for a lovely, cozy white Christmas, and today the sun came out in the bluest of winter skies. But even the hours of sunlight couldn’t warm the air, and the cold almost seemed to snap and crackle like shattering icicles. The thermometer read about 1 degree Fahrenheit all day long, and plunged into negative temps as the sun disappeared. Our cabin’s cove heating is struggling to keep up with the chill and the indoor temperature has hovered around 60 degrees today, in spite of being turned up much warmer than that. We have a wood burning stove, but it probably hasn’t been used in a decade – Sarah and I are ready to have the chimney inspected so we can supplement (or replace) the cove heating! In the meantime, we use lots of layers, blankets, and hot tea. We had the brilliant idea today to do a some Jeeping and buzz over to Little Falls for a short hike. Because that is the normal thing to do when it is 1 glorious Fahrenheit degree outside. The Jeep tried communicating its unwillingness due to the cold, but Sarah coaxed it along, and we made a mad dash to Little Falls, took a look, and immediately turned around. The frozen swimming hole and frozen creek looked as frozen as we felt, but the icy chuckling of the water beneath the frozen falls was friendly sounding. I don’t think we’d ever hiked to and from Little Falls quite that quickly, our feet and fingers and faces cold and aching within a couple of minutes of hiking! But here in the Hills, we often enjoy dry cold, so even the frigid temps aren’t as bitter as if we had more humidity. It was a lovely, brisk (i.e. frigid) hike, and we even got a few good photos! Tonight, the temps have sunk even lower, and all the critters will be inside for the night. The cats were all in last night, but even the dogs will be inside tonight. We’ll batten down the hatches, boil some water for tea, and snuggle under blankets and watch a movie. Not a bad way to end a cold winter day.
Do you know the spell of a fresh snowfall? That unmistakable something that is in the air and in the blood, the dazzling beauty, intense and subtle and wild and gentle, transforming the world with tiny feathers of frozen water. I want to stare and stare, and soak in all the delicate magnificence of the silent poetry of a snowfall. It is calming yet exciting, mesmerizing yet energizing. I want to laugh, and run, and dance, and exclaim like a child on Christmas morning. There is a little flame of pure joy in the heart of every snowflake, and millions of them dance through the air at a time, turning our little country hollow into a fairy land. I don’t know what it is about a fresh snowfall, particularly the first couple of the season, but somehow it gets into the blood like a little spark and surge of energy. The cold somehow doesn’t seem as cold. The wind, sweeping up eddies of snow, doesn’t seem as bitter. The blinding white makes me want to open my eyes even wider and take in even more.
“A million feathers falling down, a million stars that touch the ground. / So many secrets to be found amid the falling snow.” Thus reads a line of one of Enya’s songs, which haunts me every winter. Each of those snowflakes is a tiny heavenly mystery, a tiny theology lesson, each attesting to the creative might of our Creator God and His power over all things great and small. Each is obedient to the laws of nature which He set in place, obedient to the freezing point of water and how water molecules align themselves when cooling, obedient to gravity, obedient to updrafts and downdrafts. Not a single snowflake acts outside the will of the Father. Each is unique. Each is a miracle. Each is a masterpiece. Each by their beauty and uniqueness attests to God’s perfect goodness and graciousness. What a glorious “extra” that God wasn’t at all bound to provide! So much glory poured into one perfect snowflake! And what a transformation is brought about by a whole sky full, loosed upon our Hills! So out I ventured this morning into the snowglobe world of whirling, dancing snowflakes, with my camera and the dogs, to wonder and marvel and delight. True to form, the dogs loved it and the cats hated it. The cats sulked while the dogs played. Trixie and Opal snapped and snarled in frisky ferocity, sometimes trotting down the driveway like little first grade girls, then running madcap around the whole yard, out across the dam, tearing around and rolling in the snow.
They clearly enjoyed the snow every bit as much as I did. Although I’m guessing they weren’t struck by the theology lesson.
And the winter continues! Springtime seemed to be well on its way last week and early this week, with record breaking or nearly record breaking temperatures, but winter is not yet gone. It snowed most of the day yesterday, and got heavier into the evening. There was probably a good 8 inches on my truck this morning, and good deep snow all the way up the driveway! Beautiful!Yesterday afternoon we played out in the snow with the dogs for a little while, trying to get Trixie and Opal better acquainted. Trixie is such a puppy-at-heart still, with all the rambunctious energy of a puppy but with the size and strength of an adult dog. She doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body, but we don’t quite trust her to play nicely with Opal. She just gets so excited and bowls Opal over and tramples on her, until Opal turns into a shrieking frenzy with her tail between her legs. Opal’s reaction to Trixie was a comical blend of cowardice and puppy indignation. She is a bit of a drama queen.
We finally put Trixie on her cable so she would be limited but could still interact with Opal. Opal figured out that she could easily get out of Trixie’s reach, but would come primly to just within Trixie’s reach and allow Trixie to nose her around a little bit before running off. We’re pretty sure Opal is going to be the dominant dog of the pair, if she isn’t already. Snow and puppies. Not a bad deal.
When the weather folks began predicting a Christmas Day Blizzard almost a whole week before Christmas, many of us scoffed. The last couple of winter storms were somewhat over-hyped and, while being a little inconvenient, were really not severe. Christmas Eve rolled around and church was cancelled, and we really began betting on there ending up being nothing worth cancelling church over. Christmas morning rolled around and we got a dusting of snow, or a couple of inches, but nothing worth getting too excited about, and we continued to doubt the meteorologists. But then came the wet precipitation, the ice, and Christmas afternoon finally arrived in a whirlwind of snow and wind. Travel was not advised on pretty much all of the highways in and around the Black Hills, I-90 was closed, and the Christmas Day Blizzard arrived as predicted.
Our mile-long driveway proved to be a hassle, and a lot of work went into shoveling parts of the driveway by hand on Monday, since the only person really familiar with the road grader is out of state for the time being. Trixie was in her element, and spent a good deal of the day tearing around to her little heart’s content. She loves the snow.
Some of us humans love the snow as well, the rushing cold, the gleaming white. Shortcuts through a pasture turn into comical flounderings in knee-high drifts. Walking up the road to Grandma’s takes extra effort, since every step forward on the slick snow costs you six inches in backsliding. Pant legs freeze solid. But it is winter. It is supposed to be like this. The hassle doesn’t get to us. Granted, we didn’t lose power or need to be anywhere. “Hassle” is almost too big of a word to use.
Yesterday was beautiful and it was no problem getting back and forth between our house and Grandma’s, where Mom and Dad are currently staying, and which is the hub for family festivities. But this morning the wind picked up, and all the work that went into digging out Monday was drifted over. I went up to Grandma’s to get some firewood for the Miner’s Cabin, and on the way down I hit a drift and slid off the road. In the process of trying to get it back on the road, it slid deeper off into knee-deep drifts, so my uncle and I spent the next hour or two digging it out!
Currently no vehicle, including the Jeep, can make it all the way up to Grandma’s, so we get as far as we can and then walk the rest of the way. One of the other four-wheel drive vehicles got a flat on the way up, and the other truck is snowed in over at my uncle’s house. Winds of 20-30 miles per hour are expected tonight. More digging out tomorrow.
But God is good. He gives us trials, such as having one’s day turned topsy-turvy in a snow drift, as a reminder that we do not carry out our plans or order our lives – He does. He also sends reminders of his goodness and grace, such as the beauty of blowing snow in the sunlight, blue skies, fresh, crisp country air, starry nighttime, family fellowship, puppy antics, and kittens purring.
Life is good. God is wonderful.