Wintering Over

by winteryder

Sipping espresso in the morning stillness, I watch as the edges of night start to recede. Gathering my snow shovel and slipping into cold weather gear, I step out into the frosty -10F air and inhale once, deeply.

The blade bites into the hard pack and the fresh powder, and with every measured slice I peel back winter’s cold edges- and with them, night’s darkness. As I shovel, sunrise slowly begins to glow over the Eastern Alaska Range, soft pinks and purples and orange sherbet glaze the far mountains. Sunrise is slow-rise this time of year- daylight measured in minutes, not hours.

I toss the shovel aside and call for Schatzi- she’s off marking driveways at distant cabins and comes bounding over to join me in a morning’s aimless stroll. We launch straight into the woods, making our own trail through a foot of fresh snow. Eventually, we catch a line of faintly-used tracks and wander deeper, higher into the hills.

An hour in, we step into a clearing and I pause. A makeshift homeless camp is nestled into the little hillside, south facing. It will be hours before the sun reaches the blue tarps and faded rugs, the snow covered trestles sistered together with baling twine. This is my backyard, these hills and summer swamp land. I’m one breath, one rent payment from living in this little clearing.

It’s peaceful here, and -20F. My breath is freezing to my face, eyelashes like frost-covered spruce branches. Schatzi and I melt back into the woods, softly. The last refuge for the overwhelmed, the broken, the weary… is Solitude. I won’t be the one to break the silence.

The lights and warmth of my tiny cabin welcome me as I wrestle the latch and frozen hardware of the little door. Morning has broken. The sun is still hours from its five minutes of glow- I am part of it, though. It is a Silent day- warmed by the coals of the fire I tend at my own hearth, my own little home.