Snow. I conclude that it’s entirely impossible to be indifferent to it. Either you welcome it with excitement and anticipation, or you see it as a burden and a hazard. Winter weather has an effect on all of us, it’s just a question of which direction it pushes you. Here in Madras, where we are going on two weeks of continuous cold temperatures and massive but sporadic snowfall, my only regret (other than the lateness of this winter activity) is the time spent repeatedly shoveling the driveway, though even that is a blessing as it provides physical activity in the outdoors, which I’ve found is a needed element in my life regardless of the season and conditions. Though one of my most favorite outdoor activities, splitting firewood, is challenging at the moment (all the logs are buried under two feet of snow), shoveling snow is a somewhat satisfying substitute, as it not only gets the blood flowing and the mind working (I’m a very methodical shoveler), but it also possesses the novelty of being quite seasonal, which I have found always adds a pleasure to tasks of that nature.
In addition to the effort required to clear the driveway, create and recreate paths to the chicken coop, woodpile, compost, etc., I have had the pleasure of getting out several times for some cross-country skiing this winter. Except for the childhood thrills of extreme sledding, snow-fort building, once-a-year ice-skating, and occasional epic snowball fights, I’ve never really participated in winter sports. This year I really felt the urge to get out and try something new, so I dusted off my dad’s old Fischers, watched some videos on nordic ski technique, and proceeded to frustrate myself continually with my inability to pick up the skills. Several shaky attempts later, I’m happy to say I’ve acquired the necessary experience to get by with the Classic technique, outdated and rustic though it is compared to the more popular Skate Ski technique, which isn’t quite achievable with forty-year-old skis and boots. It’s been a fun adventure, and another blessed reason to venture out and celebrate the distinctness of the season.
When not enjoying rigorous activity in the great outdoors, I find winter to be an excellent time to drink tea and hot chocolate, read books, make music, undertake wood-working projects, roast meat, bake bread, cook soups, and overall enjoy the coziness and blessing of having a roof over my head. It’s also been exciting to have more time to invest in my studies, and the possibility of wrapping up my Graduate degree in just over a year from now motivates me to rekindle and renew my love of reading, writing, and exploring the depths of knowledge. Assuming others relate to this, I definitely go through spurts of motivation and excitement, and it’s always helpful when that drive coincides with spare time in which to engage the pursuit. Not working the past few months has also helped give me the time to focus on coursework, reminding me of the time before I had a job and school was my primary concern. Though this is a temporary state, It’s fun to hold it in balance with other seasons of life, and to be thankful for a variety of rhythms and seasons.
But perhaps the biggest highlight of this season for me has been the presence of the screech owl that took up residence in one of our many nest-boxes earlier this winter. I first noticed him (we’re calling it a male based on size and conspicuousness) just after Christmas while running our dogs in the backyard. While Rudi (the biggest of our pack) marked his territory on a stout juniper tree, my gaze wandered ten feet up to the nest-box we erected many years ago in the hope of attracting resident raptors. (A similar sized box in our juniper snag has been used by Kestrels five years in a row, with four to five young falcons emerging from it every summer.) I was astonished to see the impassive gray face of a western screech owl gazing down at the dog and me, as the owl seemed in no way perturbed by our close proximity. It has been over two months now that our screech owl can be reliably seen gazing out of his box in the late afternoon and evening, preparatory to heading out on his nightly forays. Though we see no indication that he has a mate, it is our great hope as we move into the breeding season that he and an unseen female will indeed stick around through the spring months, lay their eggs and rear their young in our nest-box. The excitement of welcoming wildlife to our yard has no greater rewards than knowing we’ve provided a place where new critters can be born and welcomed into this world. Stay tuned!