Withheld Powder

East
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East
Withheld Powder

IN NOVEMBER, I WAS MERELY DISCOURAGED, WAITING, AS YOU WERE, for the first significant snow of the season. "Relax," said my wife. "It's only November." And she was right. In December, I became anxious, as you did, weary of teaser flakes that could have been, but weren't. "Relax," said my wife. "It's only December. There's plenty of winter left." And she was right. Again.

In January, I was tense and terse. I slid down mountains sparsely covered by grainy kiblets (I saw you there too), and came home wanting something more. "Relax," said my wife. "It will come. Just wait." This time, I was sure she was wrong. It was January, and our field was covered by a layer of ice so treacherous I couldn't let our 900-pound Jersey cow out of the barn for fear she'd slip and never get up. Shortly thereafter, my wife put our Subaru into the ditch at the end of our driveway and came into the house sputtering mad. "Relax," I said, less snottily than you might imagine. "It will snow soon." I got a chain out of the basement and climbed into my truck, not believing a word I'd said. Oh well, I thought to myself as I crawled under our old Legacy, there's always broomball.

And then it came. And by God, it was good. The powder days drifted together until one was almost indistinguishable from another, the fatigue in my legs so deep-set and constant that I forgot what it was like not to hurt. Day after day I came home and hung my clothing on the gate by our woodstove to hiss and steam itself dry, before turning to the haughtiness of a spouse proven correct yet again. "I told you so," she'd say as she handed me our three-month-old son. And then: "He needs a diaper change."

In some strange way, I am almost grateful for the compressed nature of the season just past. I recall December '03, an epic month that preceded a three-month span memorable only for the frost growing on the inside of our north-facing walls. Given the choice, I'll take the back-loaded ski season any year. Maybe it's because my memory is so poor, or maybe it's just that withheld powder is always deeper and drier than that which falls on schedule.

Whatever the case, it will be November soon, and my eyes, like yours, will be cast on the sky. If it snows, I will smile and reach for my skis. And if it doesn't? I'll stoke the fire, put on some coffee, and relax.

OCTOBER 2005