This winter has contained everything you can imagine: whipping winds, blizzard white-outs, sub-zero weeks, slipping and sliding, and certainly the occasional power outage. There was a time recently when the temperature, from one Monday to the next rose a full 70 degrees. And I can't quite remember, but I'm pretty sure that it dropped at least 50 degrees again in the next two days. The weather has been awesome.
Beautifully terrifying. Terrifyingly beautiful.
Terrifying as an icy river, while you sit bobbing in your kayak, taking a momentary break to float gingerly downstream, perched just so, knowing that you are always on the verge of catching an edge and embarking on an arctic triathlon (paddle, swim, mountaineer), minus the survival suit. But beautiful.
Beautiful, like a friend described at lunch the other day, is that moment when you need to venture down from your bear stand deep in the woods. But terrifying, with the nerve-wracking knowledge of the sow and two cubs milling around somewhere beyond your eyesight. Don't worry though, they can see you just fine.
It is standing at the altar - beautiful. Or rather, waking up a week later in bed to the realization that you had better get used to the pulsing aroma of that particular vintage of morning breath, because it is a gift from your soulmate, offered to you, forever. Terrifying.
Adventure of a lifetime!
You wouldn't believe...!
What a story!
However, in that moment of the thrill, as you float down a river at 11PM with the sound of an upcoming rapid pounding against your eardrums and a full moon illuminating the surface foam, you can't decide whether it is literally-the-coolest-thing-you-have-ever-done or if it will literally be the last thing you ever accomplish in this lifetime.
The weather is that sort of deadly mistress. My husband was in a car accident recently, and for me, the most alarming feature of the incident was not the rolling of the vehicle (no), the speedy launch into the woods (no), or even the potential for strandedness on an what used to be an old logging road to Canada (no).
By now, you are likely questioning what kind of wife I am. Unnerving, isn't it?
What was most terrifying to me was the -15 degree evening temperature, plus windchill. That fact, combined with the others is what still gives me a sour feeling in my stomach when I recall the day. Would he be able to make the one mile walk to our driveway, then the three mile hike home? In the dark? In the biting, snapping cold and the snow? This is the kind of cold that wraps its icy hands around the base of your neck and threatens to squeeze out your last breath as lightning fast as falling out of a tree knocks the wind from your lungs. It's so cold that you gasp instantly as if you were standing naked in a shower of ice cubes. You blink often because the mucous covering your eyes tends, like every other liquid, to freeze. Your cheeks don't sting at this point because the surface nerves have stopped functioning, and you can't zip the neck of your jacket because the dexterity in your fingers is reduced to what would be playing the piano with ten blocks of cheese tied to your hands.
Thankfully (miraculously), C arrived home unscathed, thanks to a humbling amount of timely provision (friends, emergency personnel, kind sheriff, snacks), but the occasion serves as another reminder of the awesome dual nature of our weather:
it's terror, it's beauty.
This is precisely why we love the river.
Being in nature.
Living in the woods.
Why exactly? Because, simply put - we cannot control these things. The river, nature, the woods - they exist outside of our reach, and the moment you or I think that we have them under our thumb - the second the paddler lifts that blade out of the water and relaxes her grip - these things will level us with the strength of a thousand man-made engines.
And why on earth would this be good?
Because it reminds us of the greatness of what we've already been given in relation to the smallness of what we try to please ourselves with. It reminds us that there is a great symphony being played around us all the time, but that we are busy banging on a piano with cheese block fingers.
And it promises that we will hear that beautiful music
if only we would stop making such terrible noise.