Skating through the dark

Every autumn, as I watch my gardens, technicolor and elastic in summer, stiffen and brown, I ask myself the same question. Winter in Vermont: how do we do it?

Then, muscle-memory kicks in. I find myself standing over the stove, experimenting with soups and sauces, listening to my favorite public radio programs on the old Panasonic. I find myself digging in storage spaces, bagging up cast-offs for Goodwill. I find myself at potlucks, and skating parties, or curled up on the couch, watching Downton Abbey, with fingers crossed. (We do not have I need the luck...will the tinfoil attached to the curtain-rod hold the signal so I can find out what happens to Mary?)

I am scalier, plumper, and generally chapped. I am cursing under my breath, as I chip ice off the locks on the chicken coop. I am peeling splinters out of my gloves, after trips to the woodshed to fill the stove. It's very dark, but the night sky is often brilliant and clear.

When we are lucky, it stays cold and predictable. Brief bursts of warmth do little to cheer us, but do quickly melt the blanket of snow covering the vast farms fields. These snow covered fields are where my senses wake back up. I strap on my skis, and skate across the white expanse, racing against myself. Cold air fills my lungs, and the tips of my ponytail freeze. I feel smooth and slippery against the unyeilding everyday.

Some nights, after dinner, I go for a ski. Lighted by my headlamp, I tread across the open fields. Poles, skis. Poles, skis. 1, 2. 1, 2. Faster and faster, until my wool layers feel too warm. My headlamp makes a tunnel of light in front of me. The beam stretches out for about fifteen feet, then drops off in the blackness. My eye focus on the small, bright patch of snow in front of me.

What is beyond that? I'll know when I get there. Faster and faster. 1, 2. 1, 2...wind whipping my cheeks, breathing deeply, into the unknown.