It's been a month since my last post - a month so chock-full of wintry, warm-spirited goodness (literally - mulled apple cider with spiced rum has become a staple) that the memories and images have snowballed (hehe) into one giant writing explosion here. Christmas Eve in Connecticut, Christmas day in New York City, shushing on the slopes, and general winter enjoyment festivities abounded.
To start, we've had more snow here in the Northeast than we have had in quite a few winters. The snow is actually beautiful and much more appeasing than freezing rain, so I am not complaining. It is truly a treat to sit and stare out the window at it, so long as I am not required to actually function or complete day-to-day tasks that require my walking, driving, or otherwise being outside for extended periods of time when I do not wish to be (for example, though it is deceptively sunny, my phone is telling me it's 4˚F outside, so I am scared and have not left my bed). But going for a drive on the calm and brilliantly sunny morning after a snow storm has dumped two feet over bucolic Southwestern Connecticut is an activity I've come to appreciate. And it turns out, the picturesque rolling landscapes are just as stunning in the snow, entirely different from their spring and summer (and fall!) glory, like finding beauty in the subdued, grey, rainy days in Barbados juxtaposed with the big-blue-sky kind of days that I talked about here.
One expansive working farm after the next, complete with quintessential big red barns and grazing bovine destined for the "All Natural, Grass-Fed, Black Angus Beef" $26 hamburger market of NYC (though the same meat goes into the $8 burgers at the quaint roadside/brookside shack by the farm) dominate the hilltops that dip into wooded valleys and slope back up to form the next ridge and produce the next show-stopping farm or estate.
Sometimes, I am lucky enough to have company on these sojourns. And sometimes, they are on foot. Like when Casey, Phil, Kevin and I decided to embrace the oncoming snow blast by going for a hike in the old iron-ore mines in Roxbury. "Well this is different," noted Kevin, "I've never hiked into the woods during a snow storm before." My thoughts exactly. But we were rewarded ten-fold for our efforts once we reached the blanketed pond in the middle of the woods, surrounded in silence by the steadfast falling snow. Phil, awestruck at the Narnia-like scene before him (and it was Narnia-like - I swear Mr. Tumnus was cautiously watching from behind a tree-trunk somewhere), whispered to himself, "This is the definition of serene," and Kevin responded, "Yeah...I could probably write a poem right now." I believe he was serious.
Last weekend, my winter adventures took me to Bethel, Maine, for a spectacular ski weekend. This ride started out a bit rough. I drove an hour to meet the carpool in Norwalk. The normally three-hour trip from Norwalk to Boston took five plus hours (though still less than my last trip to Boston, where the highway was closed due to a fatal shooting of an escaped convict, but that's neither here nor there). Why the driver (aghem, Jeff) was taking directional advice to avoid the traffic from the two passengers who were not looking at any map, traffic forecast, or other navigational device, but rather shouting out suggestions that are unverified and most of the time plain incorrect, instead of listening to yours truly, who had been meticulously plotting the quickest route, is beyond me. But nonetheless, the four of us made it with smiles on our faces to Boston, unpacked all our gear, repacked it into three different vehicles awaiting our arrival, and set out for the second half of this trek. Three hours and one requisite Lindsay-talking-her-way-out-of-a-ticket scenario later, we were well on our way to the ski house. The "Welcome to Vacationland" sign at the Maine border let me know we were in for a treat of a weekend.
Now, prior to this ski weekend, I was starting to question my interest in the sport. This is probably due to the fact that so far this season, I had only been skiing at our local ski area, which is nice that there's a mountain so close, but let's face it - it's not a mountain. However, being at the top of one of Sunday River's eight (!) peaks, staring out across the 360˚ vista of incredibly mountainous Maine terrain, grabbing lunch and a beer at the mountain-top lodge while listening to a stellar guitar player nail my requests ("Can't You See", anyone?) and then enjoying a full twenty to thirty minute ride down the slopes renewed my love of skiing. I forgot it was more than torturing yourself in the freezing cold - it's a culture. The group took full advantage of the all-you-can-eat free hot wings special at the brewery down the road (dinner - check), and settled in to a night of hot-tubbing, board-game playing, and jamming. The next day, while others skiied again, Lindsay, Casey and I hung back with some others to enjoy the house and its surroundings in the daylight/I did not have the budget to ski again. Lindsay and I chose the hot tub as our modus operandi for the day, while Casey and co. decided upon the more physical activity of cutting down trees. While I did not partake, I did manage to jump out of the 103˚ hot tub, run into the house, find a phone, and snap this photo of their return and their bounty:
The hour or two that succeeded this photo brought one of the most dramatic sunset scenes I've been witness to. The hot tub faces due west, straight across Maine and into New Hampshire and the White Mountains. The day up until this point had been sunny and clear, but Lindsay and I had been precariously watching a massive grey sheet of cloud creep closer and closer. When it finally reached the setting sun, dynamic sunset chaos ensued. Uninterrupted blue sky to the south, the solid snow movement to the north, and every range of an artist's palette of gold in between as the setting sun was slowly consumed, smack in the middle of it. To the south, clear to the horizon. To the right of the setting sun, you could not see past the first ridge. Light to dark. Like an Ansel Adams photograph, but better, because a) it was real life and b) the colors.
iPhone camera does not do it justice but I tried anyway
Not my photo but I liked it so stole it off BK's Facebook
The not-at-all-dangerous path to the hot tub
I was subsequently kicked out of the hot tub by the returning group on the grounds that my disturbingly pruned hands looked like a potential health hazard.
The drive back the next day was so Maine-y and full of scenes from a wintry storybook: I'd casually glance out the window and spot a golden retriever pulling a child on a sled through the snow, look down for a few moments, look out the window again and oh! there's a group of kids playing pond hockey, look down, look up and spot snowmobilers zipping through the trees...you get the picture.
All this wintry talk and I didn't even get into Christmas, but this post is long and you can imagine! So I'll just give you some images instead because that's fun and easier...