What do you like about winter?" I asked Dan on our date last weekend.
It's easy to contemplate
winter when you're crunching through a snowy meadow, icy wind blowing the dust out of your pores.
I like the differentness of it," he replied. I like how stark and raw the land is, the low slant of the sun, the long
I've never begrudged winter. I love to cross country ski or walk in the snowy woods
admiring the hardy birds that stay the season. I love the quiet fury of snow raging from the sky and the aesthetics of
snow packed like vanilla icing on the local ridges. I, too, love the
differentness of it: how our front porch becomes our auxiliary fridge, keeping overflow pots of pinto beans and elk
But here's where it gets dicey. Those children that I adore, whose downy heads I can't help but stroke when they're
within reach - they're not winter-compatible.
They're small, like little squirrels building their thick, winter coats. Col hasn't a gram of body fat on his sleek
frame. He wears a wet suit at the pool, teeth
chattering out a sad tune, as I wonder if he'll learn to swim
before he gets hypothermia.
We try, goodness knows we try, to get outside. I stuff those kids in their snowsuits nearly every day, and one time -
one time! - the boots and mittens and puffy jackets went on so effortlessly and cheerfully that the moment sits on the
high shelf of my mind, like an athlete's trophy, reminding me of success. More likely, Col wriggles inside his
marshmallow-casing of layers, whining it's too bulky and funky!" Rose is generally fine with suiting up; it's the
being outside that gets dodgy.
It helps if Col has a tool and a project. He loves a snow shovel, and sometimes I send him out to the wilderness of our
yard to simply move snow around. Good job!" I call from our chicken coop, where I scrape frozen droppings from the
girls' roost as Col heaves a cascade of snow nowhere in particular. Yesterday, he spent 20 minutes burying Rose's
tricycle with snow so the skunks won't get it." I pictured a family of skunks joyriding down our street. But Rose,
understanding her brother completely, explained the real perils: Skunks make it smelly."
Col is also diligently excavating a snow cave for our cat, who, y'know, likes snow as much as your cat does. But I
encourage this endeavor, while I'm balancing Rose's weight on my hip, reminding her for the thousandth time to lean
into me. I'm too small Mama,
remember?" she replies. When I'm 5, I do that."
And as much as life is different here in winter, it's dazzling and fleeting. Beneath those thick snowsuits, I can
envision the bare skin of my children flashing in the summer heat, their dirt-smudged faces lifted to the brightness.
It's not long now.
Rachel Turiel's column runs on
the first and third Sunday of the month. Contact her at sanjuandrive @frontier.net. Check out her blog on raising
children, chickens and other complicated endeavors at 6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.