Today when I got up, I looked out the window. As far as I could see, there was nothing but white in the world. As I manually shifted focus and tried to find something to differentiate itself from anything else in the swirling field of blankness, I noticed that several snowflakes were beating against the window trying desperately to get in, and out of what suddenly became obvious as a winter wind storm. The abundant whiteness was not just that roofs, lawns, steps, and ledges were covered with snow — there were tiny flurries filling the air, sweeping off from the roof edges and tree branches, spinning in dervishes just above the ground.
The world was owned by the weather, and the weather was devoted entirely to winter.
We had breakfasts, and tea and set about entertaining ourselves in various ways without thought of venturing much into the arctic scene outside our windows. Xideka, clad in long sleeve, neck-to-ankle night gown, put it most aptly for all of us when she said, “I hope we don’t go outside at all today. I hope we just stay riiight here.” And she went back to playing steadily with Echo.
There was just one problem with that tidy plan. As always, our dog Henry needed to go for a walk. Rain or shine, heat wave or winter storm, Natalie is out there making sure our boy gets in at least one good workout every single day, and if she’s out of town or unable, then I do it for her. So even on this day, with the thermometer on the neighbor’s fence frozen below 20, and the wind whining at every window and slinging snow into every nook and cranny Natalie was heading off into the white. I offered for her to put the giant puffy coat I use over the one she was already zipping up. She laughed uneasily.
I knew it might be the last time I saw her, but it was too cold to walk her down the steps to the outside door. Natalie waded out into the sloshing sea of snow, with hat and gloves, and leash and poop bags. The wind whinnied at the door as she exited. After she left, I quickly made myself more tea, just in honour of her freezing.
Then I set about making the house warmer. My favorite way to do that is making a fire. But there was no fire place. And I didn’t want to see any of our furniture, or the lovely studio where we are currently staying going up in flames, so I decided on my second favorite way to warm a house — Baking.
We had some canned pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk on the counter already, so I set out to make a pie. Xideka and Echo were so enthralled with their own game(s) that they didn’t notice what I was doing until close to the end. They joined me just in time to stir all the ingredients in together and pour the mixture into the pie crust. I almost forgot, but remembered at the last second to put the pie on a cookie sheet — just like my mama taught me. The girls really liked this operation and the death-defying act of getting the pie soup from the counter to the oven and onto the middle rack without spilling all of it onto the cookie sheet.
By then the house was warming up a bit and Natalie had returned. We all took turns feeling first her frozen fingers, then her even more frozen chin. She moved her mouth funny when she talked — that’s how cold it was. Natalie brought tales of her adventures in the world, and we listened and replayed certain parts back, over and over. Then Xi and Echo needed a tickle session. As soon as that was finished, we were joined by some dear friends, who stayed and played, and listened to Natalie’s adventures (told again by her and all of us). The thin white disk of a sun finally filtered through the layers of sheer snow cloud and peaked enviously through our steamy windows.
Emboldened by Natalie’s quest to walk Henry, and determined to marshall our abilities to withstand the infinite white wind, we decided to make a bold, two-part excursion. First, we jumped into the family van and actually drove around the corner to our house which is being remodeled. We wanted to duck in there while the workers were gone and see the progress. That was fun, but felt nearly death-defying itself. Then, we piled back into the van — Sylvia we call her — and headed to the one place we knew we’d be able to be cozy out on a day like this, Butterfly Herbs Coffee Bar. We got decaf lattes for the big kids and half bagels for the younger ones. And we sat. The girls talked to other adults they knew at the bar. Natalie and I read various periodicals and talked as well. I looked out the window at the white mountains, etched with blue and black hash-mark trees, and hung flat against the grey-white sky.
As night approached, sneaking up from behind the mountains, we ran to Syliva, jumped, shivering into her chilled seats and sped, safely, home. I reminded Natalie, who was wearing the large green mittens I use so that she could hold the icy steering wheel, that the streets were probably slick. Snow ghosts danced on the tarmac, and had slowly begun to accumulate outside of the tread tracks the cars were making. We parked outside the house and dashed in all together, screaming at the cold.
Back inside we snuggled up on the couch for “movie night”, watching Shrek and eating pumpkin pie and pancakes for dinner. The girls ate two bites of pie, so I ended up having to help them with that — you know, out of the kindness of my own heart, and all… By the time the pancakes came around, I decided to have them with just butter to try and wear off the pie sugar.
It was such a perfect Montana winter weekend day. I kept catching myself humming, “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is sooo delightful, and since there’s no place to go… Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…” And even in the mad freezing dashes to and from our two external activities, I was warm.
Hope you all are staying snuggly too.
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Be well. *