First snow

Old Man Winter is insuring a white Christmas for so many of us within his reach.  Yesterday I strapped on my old and battered cross-country skis for the first time this season.  I set off through the woods to avoid the cutting wind, given that it was starting with 5 degrees above zero air, so it had quite a bite to it.  Out of the wind, however, with the proper clothes, I found myself at one point overcome with fatigue – not from the skiing, but from the large class we just finished – and was able to lie down in the fluffy snow under a pine tree and have a 10-minute nap.  The down side- the one against the ground – got bloodless first and woke me up.

The air and the trees crackle with the cold, but the ponds and streams are not sufficiently frozen yet, and after a couple of times of dropping through the shell ice around the cat-o’-nine-tails into water, and pondering streams where I could hear the water gurgling just beneath my feet, I chose the better part of valor and went around.  Even if the water were not deep, even if I could get back out to firmer footing, trying to get back home a mile or two away as my pants and boots froze would be risky with the sere and falling sun rendering the woods lovely, dark, and deep.

The wild turkeys are all around us now – big and black as Labradors – but in the fresh snow I also saw fox tracks, coyotes, and deer, as well as squirrels and dogs, but mostly I saw silence.  Sounds carry forever in Maine in the winter, but on this Saturday before Christmas, there were no chainsaws or axes, everyone seemed to be inside, awaiting the next storm.

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The phenomenon of super-chilled air (4 degrees this morning, -15C) over not so cold water – like the not-yet-iced-over ponds – is that the salt-water river this morning is sporting that unique form of fog called sea-smoke.  The land is entirely fog-free, but the river is shrouded in a thick blanket at the water level, which rises up and tatters off in the wind like cannon-smoke from a battlefield.  Be fun to sail through, but you’d need to be kitted out for it.

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