So I’m sitting here in my PJs getting ready to start writing, loving the whole work from home thing.
The coffee mug’s steaming, the heater’s going – life is good.
I lift the window shade.
And the back yard’s covered in snow. The concrete Buddha on the back porch has a cute, pointy snow hat. Maybe an inch fell last night as I slept. The junipers are dressed for Christmas – the sycamores and cottonwoods got caught in their fall color PJs.
The sun has just hit the winter landscape – with hardly a cloud in the sky.
I’m immediately conflicted. I’m warm and cozy here, with a pile of stories to write. But it’s beautiful out there – and the snow won’t last long.
Ginger sees me eying the window. She’s 13 – that’s like 91 in dog years. She’s got arthritis – and it takes a lot of maneuvering for her to lower herself down onto the doggie bed. But she’s game, I’ll give her that. Anxious. Fretful. But game.
Loki sees her looking at me and starts to prance. He’s a Malamute – sleeps outside all winter. Loves to leave tracks with his big snowshoe paws.
“OK. OK,” I say. “We’ll take a walk.”
Loki bounces around like he’s mounted on four little pogo sticks.
Ginger wags her tail tentatively, looking worried. Is she anxious because I might take her – or because I might leave her? I’m not sure.
So I suit up, dig out my snow boots, clip on the leashes and forth we sally.
I’m immediately lost in the moment: The gleam and glimmer of the snow; the frosted yellow sycamore leaves; the raccoon tracks by the stream bank; the chilled sparkle of the East Verde; the yellow mass of the snow-dusted cottonwood leaves against the bright blue sky.
I’m immediately sucked into my camera lens, staggering through the transformed landscape – drunk on white and yellow and blue.
Snow’s a miracle – you know – part of the holy trinity of water.
Water expands instead of contracts when it freezes – making it almost unique among liquids. Therein hangs the story of life on Earth.
As a vapor, it creates clouds that move water from one place to another, rendering the whole surface of the earth fruitful.
As a liquid, we can drink it and then pump it through the four chambers of our hearts.
As ice – or snow – it showers us with blessings. For starters, it turns rocks into gravel and then into soil – breaking down mountains with its relentless expansions and contractions. Once it has made dirt out of boulders – the snow locks moisture into the soil, dolling it out gradually come spring. This keeps plants alive, which keeps us alive. The runoff fills reservoirs. Nurtures forests. Moderates fire season. When we have a dry winter – drought sets in, no matter how much rain falls in the other, unfrozen seasons.
And snow’s also mysterious, brilliant, jeweled.
Somewhere in the midst of my snowy epiphany, Ginger gets the Zoomies.
That’s what we call it when for no reason we can discern, Ginger starts orbiting us in circles of joy. She races around and around, like a teenager doing wheelies in Dad’s Mustang in an empty parking lot. Suddenly, she’s a puppy; painful joints banished, lurking dangers forgotten. She becomes shaggy, brown-and-white joy personified – or dogified, I guess.
“You go, girl,” I say, wondering if she has another winter in her.
She completes a couple more circuits, before yielding to time and gravity. She stands panting in the snow.
I love her in that moment. It is no small thing to be game – despite the pain. I have lost a few steps myself – here on the crumbling edge of 70. I used to ramble through the Sierras with 50 pounds on my back. Now it seems like even the railroad tie steps up to the back fence have gotten steeper. I find myself more often settling into a leather armchair with a book than venturing out into the steep-sided, mapless world.
“You’re a good girl,” I say to Ginger. She wags.
Loki comes hurtling past in a flurry of snow, on a doomed, youthful quest for caribou. He vanishes around the bend. Ginger looks after him – still panting.
“Life is good, girl,” I add, “but way too short.”
She cocks her head, wondering whether I brought treats.
“And you’re right,” I continue. “Never pass up a chance to get the Zoomies.”