Another Rush of Winter

After several days of tantalizingly springlike weather, winter decided it wasn’t moving out just yet. Which is just fine with me. “No travel” advisories were issued, and I hunkered down at home to read, edit pictures, and play in the snow. It was a beautiful, still, gentle snowstorm, with areas in the Hills receiving a foot or more of snow. We received a delightful 7 or 8 inches. And it was a wet snow! Wildflower season is coming up!
IMG_3598eIMG_3554eAs always, Trixie, our snowdog, was positively invigorated and raced around insanely, with a giant goofy grin on her funny little face. I walked up to Grandma’s to get vanilla for snow ice cream, and along the way Trixie found herself a treasure – a deer leg, perfectly intact. She carried it around and gnawed on the nasty thing. She tried to avoid me, since she doesn’t trust us not to take her treasures away, apparently, and finally resorted to burying it.
IMG_3468eIMG_3538eIMG_3590eIMG_3659eOver the last few weeks, the birds have really started to sing again, and the birdfeeder up at Grandma’s house is routinely covered with a host of the feathered things. Little bird footprints mark the snow beneath the feeder. The tiny creatures hardly seem to feel the cold. IMG_3633eIMG_3626eSpring is just around the corner. But for now, I’ll enjoy another rush of winter.

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Winter Perks

One of the occasional perks to having a long drive to town is the inability to get to town at all. Snow days, for instance. In this particular case, there wasn’t even that much snow, but the road was glazed. It was fantastic. When I get to Hwy. 79 and my truck is sliding as soon as I so much as tap the brakes, it’s a subtle clue to cancel lessons and mosey on home. And, since my camera is always with me, to admire the scenery through my viewfinder.
IMG_2448eI pulled off to the side of the road to snap some pictures around Battle Creek. The scenery that is so familiar, and so enchanting in inclement weather. The textures and colors draw me in whenever I drive past.IMG_2443eTwo kind people who saw me walking along the highway in the bitter cold and wind stopped to make sure I was alright. I love South Dakota. The lady who stopped looked like she thought I was crazy. “Are you okay?!?!” (Translation, “Are you insane?!?!”) The sleet and snow and wind were burning and freezing my face, and I grinned as big as my frozen face would grin. “Just taking pictures!” Teeth chattered. My fingers hurt. Wonderful.IMG_2461eWinter perks.

The Real Middle of Nowhere

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.IMG_0173eIMG_0188eIMG_0165eWith 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.IMG_0209eEven 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.

 

Chill

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.
IMG_9860eIMG_9879eSo much beauty in the snow. I love a good cold snap, a good winter chill.

Mercury Zero

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.

 

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The Theology in a Snowflake

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.
IMG_9240e“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! IMG_9246eSo 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.

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