In the Ditch…

This has been the testiest of winters EVER, for me.  We have a lovely pile-up of feathery soft snow on the Homestead.  It's beautiful.  The kind of snow  you see on an International Coffees commercial.  Perfect little flakes drifting down from the sky.  Skiers and snowboarders are PSYCHED!

I'm ready to pack my bags and head south.  If it weren't for the store, I'd probably be gone.  Not kidding.

This morning, the boys and I packed ourselves into the "new" Subaru ('94 Legacy), heading off to the store to work.  Not fifty yards from the house, the car gets stuck.  I put 'er in reverse, hoping to back up and go forwards again with more momentum.  Instead, my car just slides sideways into the ditch near the skunk culvert (site of Andy's bloody triumph over one of the smelly critters last spring).  I get stuck, really freakin' stuck.

I'm worn out on winter.  It got the best of me today. Already with the spring fantasies.  Pining away: Rick Bass in Winter says that's the worst thing you can do.  He says you can't give up on winter: If you do, you are resigning yourself to unhappiness for months.  He says if you start wishing for Spring in February, you are setting yourself up, because winter isn't going anywhere for a long time. Not around here. Not this year, anyway.

Keep trying to remind myself:  I signed up for this.  I knew it would be hard.  Buck up and be a happy person. So it goes.  I'm trying to unclench my clenched-up heart as we speak.  I love my life, dammit.

Yesterday Axel woke up wheezing away through phlegm-hindered breathing, and I held him on the couch pretty much all day, except for a few small breaks.  One of the small breaks we took was to bring compost down the garden.  Here is what we saw on the way.

Mostly chickens it turns out.  They're not giving up on winter! They have routines to give structure to their freezing days, like ambling up to the cabin at breakfast to beg for scraps. They were very entertaining this morning.  I couldn't believe that they followed us down to the garden through such deep snow!  It's funny to watch chickens waddle through deep snow.

Subarctic temperatures now.  So we made pie.  And I got the car stuck again.  Oh well.  Just another day.

Resident Gray, Sunshine, and Freedom.

This is how it looked for soooooo long.  Weeks.  Cold, gray and heavy.  And, not coincidentally, that is how I felt: hard-edged.  We were hiking a half mile in and out of our house to get to our car every day we needed to leave the house.  And on days we didn't need to go anywhere, we were shut in this tiny little abode trying not to pull each others' hair out.  Winter.  At the Homestead.

But, thanks to Morgan at Parks and Rec, we have road access now! They drove that snow plow up and removed it in a matter of minutes!  And then  they SANDED our road!  Sweet mother of all things holy, were we ever happy.  No more creepy night walks with skunk in the air!  Freedom of mobility!

In completely unrelated news, it turns out it was the scarecrow's birthday the other day.  Andy and I had no idea until Asa told us.  So we celebrated by visiting him in his "house"  (the garden, covered with snow).  We sang him happy birthday and ate air-cake.  I found it a bit depressing (so cold and frozen--I can't really explain) but also really sweet.  Asa was really into it.  He was talking to the scarecrow (I supplied the scarecrow's creaky voice, which totally creeped Andy out) and telling him how he would visit him again soon.  I think he felt sorry for the scarecrow.  It must be lonely out there right now.

The last few days have been balmy enough to spend a considerable amount of time outside.  The snow and ice are melting, and we are covered in mud after walks outside.  I have seen a few flies around here, and a box elder beetle.  Could this be a subtle, ever-so-subtle, shift?  The earth is just vibrating a little bit.  Shaking things up a bit, maybe stirring?  I know spring is a long way off, but... I think maybe we have turned a slight corner, or maybe just veered a bit.  Even when it snows again, and it will, I think it might melt quicker.  The deepest of the deep freeze of winter could be behind us.  And I'm sure I just jinxed myself.  Oh well.

*after writing this last night, it started snowing!

"look Mom, I'm a deer"

It has been the snowiest winter here in Missoula since '96/'97, which is when I moved here.  Fourteen years ago, I came here in February thinking it was an enchanted little mountain town, where rugged cowboys mingled with college students.  It had such a vigilante feel to me then, like you could do pretty much whatever you wanted.  Beer was cheap, and everyone seemed friendly.  That turned out to mostly be true, and for me it turned out to be a pretty good fit.

Andy has a movie about Missoula in the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival this year.  It's called Missoulaqatsi.  Watch for a link here in the coming weeks, after the festival is over and the dust settled.  In the meantime it will be playing this Thursday night, Feb 17, at 8pm.  Go Andy!!