Although the daylight hours are not long on this first, true day of winter, hope now lies in Winter Solstice.
While Snow hasn’t really made her grand appearance in the Flathead Valley, Winter Solstice did not disappoint. The sun made a shining brilliant appearance, although low on the horizon. When the sun set on the first day of winter, it cascaded its rays across the tops of the mountains, shooting ribbons of pink and purple across the snowy peaks. Darkness settled into the valley around 5pm and like any decent worshiper of the earth and its magical changing of of the seasons, I stripped down naked in the crisp air and then promptly jumped into our hot tub, soaking my sore muscles from a day reveling in the sunshine and snow at a small resort south of Whitefish that has benefited from some recent snowfall. As I sat and stewed, the starts began to emerge from the dark. It is going to be a cold, cold start to Winter.
With a beer in hand, I toasted the day of good turns and greeted the new season. I spent the day with Cole and his mother skiing and relishing in the bounty of snow this small ski hill boasts in addition to its expansive views of Flathead Lake and the Swan and Mission Mountain ranges. What a day to bear witness to Winter and to life in the cold. Among the fir trees, we whooped, hollered, and shouted “Happy Winter”.
This past fall I wrote with much anticipation for this day: even though today is short on daylight, tomorrow and each day forward only means a longer day, minute by minute. I will no longer waste my gloomy fall days, brooding with a book along with the crack of the wood in the fire, and hope for days spent under the Winter sun or July heat. Fall is my respite and it is in Winter when this girl soars from the pages of a Jim Harrison novel and races to the ski hill to spend her days skiing.
While I’ve been expecting this day and for the flakes of snow to blanket the mountains where I roam, Winter Solstice and the general holiday season seems to have rushed up on me. There are just a few short days left of the year. And what a year it has been…
Without going into too much detail or for fear of sounding like one of those over-the-top Christmas card letters beaming with accomplishments, I just want all of you to note that 2011 was my banner year. I would love to bottle this year. To seal it all up, forever. But that’s now how life works. It commands us to remember, to cherish and to celebrate these good years. Scrapbooks and photo albums attempt to cement the memories, but it is my challenge, as always to not only live in the moment, but reflect on the moment — especially when those moments, like sitting in the July sunshine on the deck of the Many Glacier Hotel with a huckleberry margarita in hand after climbing in a mountain with the people I truly love, compile into many good moments and memories that can quickly fade and become lost in the recesses of the brain, floating around with reminders to schedule a dental appointment or mail in my health insurance payment. I may savor a good beer, a steak on the grill, and a cone of homemade ice cream but I’m not always the best at holding my finest memories in the forefront of my memory. Perhaps this is because, lately, I’ve had so many wonderful and true memories that stack on to each other. Like the Princess and and the Pea, I want to feel the littlest, smallest experience among the weight of the mattress.
Perhaps that is why I’m a writer, forever worry about losing a line, a moment, a story…
In a quick attempt, on the ever forgiving Internet (harr harr), here is my public moment to share with you my year.
2011 began at a ski race in Steamboat Springs, took me across the world on my telemark skis, saw me reuniting with my college friends in Chicago in the spring, delivered me to the Bob to spend a week with cross-cuts saws and my best of Montana friends, moved into my dream home, schlepped me to the top of a few mountain peaks in Glacier with my best climbing companion, and then in a summer snow and rain storm near Hole in the Wall, gave me my heart, forever.
I hoisted a stein at Oktoberfest in Germany, roared across Lake Huron to touch the Island, hugged my mother in both Montana and Michigan, wrote my heart out in both my fiction and freelance lives, and on the final day of 2011, I will once again be on my skis. I won’t be at a race this New Year’s but, rather, on the eastern flanks of the Bob Marshall Wilderness in a tiny cabin celebrating a dear friend’s major birthday and toasting to 2012.
The year, much like my time in the gates on the race course, has raced by. On these dark nights, sky cast aglow in a smattering of light from the heavens, I toast the courage and the hope that lies in all of us, whether we know it or not, to love fiercely — whether that is man or woman, mountain or river, book or pen, food or wine, and both the good and evil inner selves.
Happy, Happy Winter Solstice! May there be light. May there be snow. May hope lie in a single snow flake.