Intimations of Spring in Winter

I drove down the mountain to Fort Collins to a meeting of tree farmers who were talking about how to provide a suitable habitat for wildlife.

As a gardener who has had problems with mice, voles, and ground squirrels on this ranch we take care of in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, I seized on the information that owls can hear the little creatures moving in the grass from half-a-mile away. I began to think of building nests for great horned owls and saw-whet owls near the garden.

The meeting ended about 9 p.m. Snow drifted down through light from street lamps. Flakes melted when they touched the pavement, and the pavement was shiny with water as I drove through town.

Twenty-two miles north of town, I turned left more sharply up the mountain, and found cold fog tight against the highway and the grassy meadows on both sides of the road. I slowed to 15 m.p.h.

Curious about traction, I almost stopped, then stepped down on the accelerator. The drive wheels spun. At this higher elevation, earlier water had frozen. I shifted into four-wheel drive.

In dense fog, sometimes I wasn't sure where I was. But I had driven up the mountain so many times, I usually recognized the shape of the road.

Cocooned inside the warm cab with my thoughts and imagination and a song once in a while, I found it a pleasant drive. Cold white fog was close around me as the windshield wipers went on and off and on again. I stopped and walked through an inch of new snow at 7,700 feet, to open the gate to the dirt road home.

In the morning, my daughter Amanda and I fed her black rabbit, Nildro-Hain, and walked across the ranch through a beautiful magic world. Fog had frozen on all the trees, turning them to soft white forms.

Thick frost cushioned the new catkin buds on the willows along the creek, striving toward spring renewal even in winter. And more frost, white and soft-looking, covered the huge boulders in the granite ridge, rising untamed from the wild white forest.

Beneath the dark gray clouds, cold found ways through our heavy scarves and insulated gloves. I'd never seen such beauty without this depth of cold, driving frost to the bone.

Tiny, brave new buds and catkin buds peeked out on the willows, the newest growth just beginning on evergreen needles. Stone, eroded to soil, cradled the seed. The sun broke through the clouds and turned the white landscape golden, and we stopped, without words.

A hawk glided above the ridge. White feathers under its wings reflected the gold of the ridge in sunlight.

Was creation like this moment, cold, still with expectation, then, in an instant, warm, bright, beautiful, with life bursting forth into warm, golden sunshine?

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