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"To Watch These Woods Fill Up With Snow..."

First snow falling in October brings to mind other snows in other realms, and Robert Frost's poem: "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." Only THIS is a snowy MORNING... in October!

I never expected to be remembering Robert Frost's legendary snow line in October, let alone before Hallowe'en! 

I'm sitting at my desk, frankly astounded.  What is snow-filling is not only my car, but also every evergreen.  And worse, all the deciduous trees -- many of which still retain varicolored leaves.  Not good re rising winds, and power lines.

There's a New England legend, one of those 'Old Wives' Tales' I cherish:  "Big snow: little snow; little snow: big snow."  What it means is, when the storm starts out with large flakes, there will be small quantities.  If it starts out with those tiny ones, let alone granules, watch out!  This started with large flakes.

We shall see.

This has been going on for hours. 

My bright red geranium, "Blaise", sits in a snow-filled pot on a snowed summer table.

Snow matters to me. 

As a child, in Michigan, snow meant being pulled in the Flexible Flyer, which my grandfather, -- no handyman-- had fitted with sides, so he could tuck me in there, with the Hudson's Bay wool blanket I still use to warm knees and toes, even in autumn.  I think my father pulled me, not my grandfather.  But those snowrides would never have happened without my grandfather's hands' shaping wood.  Rare.

As an older child, my sister and I would be driven to a nearby pond, which was filled with ducks.  I didn't know birds then, but I think they were all mallards.  Our mother would have given us a sack of stale bread and crackers and crusts.  Our father would take our pictures, in terrible lumberjack wool plaid jackets, feeding the ducks. Kneeling in snow.  He would enter these pictures in contests and win prizes and other people - quelle horreur! -- would see them.

The ducks were always working hard to keep their pond free of ice, back in gelid Michigan winter.

Now I know that bread is bad for animals.  Then, our frozen knees in baggy snowpants seemed a small price to pay for helping the ducks.

As a young mother, I agreed too easily to skiing in Vermont, so the girls, barely out of toddlerhood, could learn.  Their father, Werner, obviously Swiss, --100% Swiss, actually--, also didn't know how to ski.  Surely I didn't.  I kept thinking maybe I'd die before the trip arrived.  But I didn't and it did.

So we herringboned up and smushed (not schussed) down, with many a fall, which were shorter and much easier on the girls, until we all turned into skiers. 

They, of course, became advanced experts, working mogul fields with their cooked-spaghetti legs.  Werner and I remained dutiful but ecstatic intermediates. 

The best skiing turned out not to be in Vermont and New Hampshire, and surely not in Zermatt (no warnings re 10,000-foot drop-offs, ice, or other perils).  Rather, Aspen, Snow Mass in particular, and Big Burn best of all.

The miracle was our dawn ride through evergreen forest, after nightly benisons of fresh powder.  Everyone on the chair lift remained cathedral-hushed.  I can still hear, if that is the right word, our noiseless (no ice in Aspen!) swooshes off the lift and into the woods.  Our days began with swooping in and out of silken pines.  Sometimes every needle would surrounded with dazzling hoarfrost, and the trick was to get UP there before the hoarfrost dropped.

I remember getting really good at moguls in Aspen, because they taught you to ski relaxed out there and bent knees made it all so easy.  The Swiss instructors wanted us to create scars on the inner sides of our boots from keeping our feet together.

The day of days was my solo ski on the perimeter of a wooded trail, with a drop-off that seemed gentle and non-terrifying, unlike Switzerland.  Ahead of me, BELOW me, soared the first golden eagle of my life.  He kept pace with me, as I moved along.  His wings gave me wings.

We would take the girls as teen-agers over to "Belle Bump", Belle Mountain over near the Delaware, when they couldn't live without skis on snow any more.

In Snowmass, in our ski-out, a highlight was having all the PDS kids and parents -- out there for the same spring break--, over for a chili party at day's end.  The invitations read, "When the shadows come out, come down to us for supper."

Most of the Princeton people hadn't had chili before.  Neither had my Swiss husband before Aspen, but he became a convert in Colorado,  Chili and snow have, ever since, been interwoven for me, no matter the geography out the windows.

Right now, I sense but cannot see the Towpath and the Canal down our probably non-negotiable driveway.

Right now, I marvel over, could it be, two Carolina wrens hopping around in this morning's first flakes.

As I finish these lines, a raptor, accipter with its narrow forest-negotiating tale, hurtles past.  He's only a silhouette -but means business.  Probably a sharp-shinned.  I think our wrens are long gone.  But don't really know whose side I'm on. 

"Whose woods these are," I know -- and they are filling up with snow. 

Thank you, dear Robert, for those ever-quotable lines.

I just didn't expect to need them yet.

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