Sunday, November 26, 2006


Camp Connell, CA-- The first snow has a charm that almost defies description.
It came today from a cloudy sky, and even predicted made us want to
stand outside with our heads tilted back and tongues sticking out.
Years ago, when we were just visitors to this area, the first snow
here always seemed to fall before Thanksgiving. We spent many a happy
Turkey Day in the 1980s in a rented cabin with our friends the Coleys
and Christies, overeating and cross-country skiing in an area known
as Snowshoe Springs, sleeping in long rows of sleeping bags across the
floor of the cabin main room close to the stove.
The springs were named for Snowshoe Thompson. a pioneer mountain
mailman who carried the mail in from the west side of the Sierra
Nevada to the gold mining town of Bodie on the east slope of the
mountains. In winter he did it in "snowshoes," extra long wooden skis,
following the pioneer trail across the mountains. With a heavy pack on
his back he shuffled up the 75 miles slope from the San Joaquin Valley
across the crest and then skied down the Eastern slope, using a long
wooden pole for balance.
Tomorrow, snow willing, we will dig out our modern fiberglass skis and
boots and slide up and down the lane, playing around a while and then
heading for the General Store for a cup of coffee and bragging rights.
A member of our church in Murphys, an old gold mining center turned
chic resort, said something this morning about the forecast. It was
cold, sub-freezing above 5,000 feet, and she guessed correctly it
would start snowing without the bother of cold wet rain. (She's a park
ranger so she knows this stuff.)
And that's exactly what happened. My only regret is that our family
and friends who joined us for Thanksgiving missed it, heading home
early to beat the crowds.
By midday we drove back to the house and found a trickle of snow,
which later turned into a steady fall. It is pretty wet, but there was
no rain at all. Just a quiet only snow can bring, and everything
looked clean for the first time in months.
Granddaughter Delaney called late in the day to say she was watching
the snow fall from the Bay Area by computer, checking a web cam only
a few miles downhill from where we live.
The picture above was taken after about four hours, and the ground
and the cars are covered with about four inches, the trees are sticky
and beautiful, and the entire area around our place has been
transformed. Instead of dust and duff and oak leaves and pine straw,
and a million seeds from shattered pine cones, we have a pure carpet
of white in every direction. We expect over a foot by morning.
Fans of C.S. Lewis' "Tales of Narnia" have only to think about the
lamppost just behind the back of the wardrobe. That's it.
Snow brings quite. Beauty. Contemplation. An end to chores preparing
for winter.
Snow brings thoughts of the snow shovels. Will the plow man show up?
Did I put enough wood for the stove near the house? Will the Subaru's
weak battery start the car in the morning if we have to go somewhere?
But we don't have to go anywhere, at least not for a few days, thanks
to a refrigerator full of leftovers.
So we plan to sit right here and look at the snow. Maybe go out and
walk the dog in it. She is old, Bear is, but she still likes the feel
of snow. This may be her last winter, and we want her to enjoy it. And
we will probably wipe off the old skis, and pretend to be Snowshoe
Thompson, searching for our own gold mine in the form of hot coffee.
We know we will get tired of snow eventually. But right now, it is as
if the earth had changed for the better. And we plan to enjoy it.

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