Winter Thoughts - Part One
by Joel Caris
(Note: Due to time constraints, this week's Imbibe and Lo-Fi are being replaced by a two-part entry from my old blog, The Between. Part Two will run Thursday.)
I love nature. I love everything about nature, from trees to water to the weather—rain and snow and sunshine, a slight breeze on spring days—to leaves that blow across roads in the fall to ice storms and stormy seas, waves that crash on the shore and cliffs, black rocks, mossy rocks, streams in the middle of a forest, the impenetrable quiet in the middle of a forest, the deafening hush that falls over the world during a snow storm, waterfalls—large and small—and lakes and ponds and huge mountains that tower above you in the sky, river rapids and thick forests of evergreens and hot deserts in the middle of summer. I love nature.
Similarly, hiking is an absolute joy. There is little I love more than going out onto a trail and hiking for hours, losing myself in the nature around me. Hiking alone, really, is the best. It allows me to slip deep into my own thoughts, to dwell upon my life and then—all at the same time—to completely lose myself in the majesties of this planet, to be enthralled and enraptured and entirely enveloped in the wonders of trees or the desert or mountains looming around me or a wide open field with wild flowers. There may be squirrels chattering at me from the trees or an eagle soaring in circles high above me—a bald eagle, I think, but I'm not quite positive—or I might even see some elk off in the distance, crashing through the forest, or a herd of mountain goats vertically climbing the hillside while I hike it horizontally. I've experienced all these things and every time, it's been a highlight, a wonderful time in my life. I love hiking.
I also love snow. It is so pure and quieting, a wonderful refreshment. Snow is like renewal. A cold snowy day spent inside, watching it from the window, maybe drinking hot chocolate or tea and reading a book—that's a good day. But it's also great to be out in snow, both when it is falling and once it has covered the ground. Now, those are two very different sorts of feelings. When the snow has fallen and it covers the ground, the feeling is peace and serenity, a great calmness. This feeling is enhanced when the snow is fresh and clean, free from footprints and other marrings. When you're outside and the snow is falling, however, there's a slight difference to the feeling. There's still that encompassing silence and the peace and calm, but there's a sense of energy as well. There's a charge in the air when the snow is falling—that sense of power that always seems to come with weather events. Something is happening. The world is changing, even if it isn't dramatic and even if it's something you've seen a hundred times before. There's still a charge, a boost of energy. When the snow is falling and you're in the middle of it—particularly when it's falling fast and furious—that's exciting.
We don't get much snow here in Portland. We had a great snowstorm last year literally on New Year's Day and that was followed a few days later with a nasty but incredible ice storm that covered the snow, and everything else, in about two to three inches of ice. I went outside into the ice storm at night while it was happening with my roommate and we just walked around, trying not to fall and kill ourselves, marveling at it all. It truly was an experience.
But no, we don't get much snow here, which is a shame. Every winter, I miss snow storms. When I lived in Arizona for a year, we had great snow storms. I lived in the White Mountains, within forty five minutes of a ski resort, so we actually received a good amount of snow, despite it being Arizona. I remember standing in about two feet of snow one winter waiting for the bus to come to take me to school. It sucked that I was going to school, but the snow all over the place made up for it. That was just cool to me, especially coming from an area of the country that typically received significant snowfall only once every couple years.
When I look at the paintings accompanying this post—both by Andrew Wyeth—I think about everything I just wrote. I see that secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere, boxed in by a snow storm with bare trees and a small pond nearby, and it is inspiring to me. The thought of being there is inspiring to me. I think about how much I love snow, how much I love nature, and how much all of it leaves me feeling invigorated. One of the best parts about being out in nature is that it inspires me creatively. When I go hiking or I stand in a snow storm, I feel stirrings in the back of my mind, this desire to create characters and stories. I want to imagine worlds and populate them, to explore what it means to be human with my own creations. Winter does this, as well. A really cold, gray day often leaves me feeling melancholic and creative. But it's particularly strong when it snows or when I'm out in nature. If I'm out in the wild during winter? That's some potent creative juices right there.
You can imagine, then, how amazing it was for me to go hiking in the snow. I did it one time in Glacier National Park, during my roadtrip a few summers ago. I'll write about that Thursday, in part two of "Winter Thoughts."
Don't tell anyone, but I think Joel may be a hippie.