The Jewels of Winter

The transition from winter to spring takes its own sweet time in Vermont. We put away our mittens only to bring them out again. Though skis are in the shed, the giddy yellow daffodils are flattened by snow and the chipmunk who scoots around my deck had to use his wedge-shaped nose as a mini-snowplow to find sunflower seeds.

Before winter finally dissolves into waterfalls and memories, I here report one last winter story from Pawlet, Vt.

It starts with my grandfather, a jeweler for Tiffany's in New York. He used to bring home diamonds in his pocket to work on. He made all his own tools and he could engrave in complicated scrolls like the feathery frost designs on our winter windows. He was gentle and he loved me.

By association, I have always admired meticulous artwork and beautiful stones. A thief stole my jewelry when I lived in New Jersey so now I look in store windows but do not buy.

This winter, on one of those rare sunny days, I sat on my window seat eating lunch. I looked out the window and was amazed to see a ruby blinking at me from a huge icicle hanging from the roof.

It looked to be about three carats, clear, faceted, and polished with all the brilliance and glow of the ones I once priced in Tiffany's.

"Just ice," you say.

Well, yes and no. If you owned a ruby made of stone that big, you couldn't do any more than just look at it. You couldn't wear it in public, so it would lie dead in a bank vault most of the time, unseen.

My ruby, however ephemeral, was very much in plain sight and set in shimmering crystal.

I marveled that such beauty could come from such simple ingredients: hydrogen, oxygen, and sunlight. It takes 12 ingredients to make a carrot cake, not counting the icing, plus all the equipment. Nature certainly can do a lot with almost nothing; awesome.

I glanced down to take a bite of sandwich and looked out again. The ruby was gone. It had been transformed into an emerald, just as big and bright - a live, vivid green.

There it was, hanging right outside my window. Rubies are nice, but I've always wanted an emerald. This jewel, no one can ever take from me.

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