Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Magic Fairy Dust and Wyoming Rangers

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, February 21, 2015

I can feel the snow coming in.

After the chores, I make granola. I add almond and vanilla extract to the mix which makes the lodge smell like cookies.

I post a blog.

It begins to snow. Lightly at first, and then with a gathering insistence. Just what was needed.

I write.

I go outside to frolic a little in the shaken snow globe world and hear snowmobiles up on the snowmobile road in the east. I'm reminded that I'm not as isolated as it looks out the window.

I write.

I take a break to clean the breakfast dishes, add wood to the fire, and call my grandmother.

I write more.

The snow continues until 5:00 PM. The cat thinks it's too cold to do our walk around. She waits for me on the porch. The wind is brisk. The temperature 7.7 degrees.

I make rice, broccoli, and salmon for dinner. I overcook the salmon just a tad. I’ll know better for next time.

Darkness falls. The fingernail moon is edged by clouds. I stand at the window in the piano room and stare at it for a while. Venus has already set. Mars is nowhere in sight.

I watch some videos and read some tips for downhill skiing. I feel better after reading, learning the difference between cross-country skis and downhill skis. More than one site says, "Falling while cross-country skiing is very common." This reassures me. Another site says that many cross-country skiers fear downhill slopes. I don't fear them, I just want to master them. I watch some videos and read some tips for getting up out of deep snow. I watch some videos and read some tips for backcountry cross-country skiing and also for track cross-country skiing. What in the world did I ever do before YouTube videos and the Internet?

I watch a show. Have a glass of wine.

Sleepiness edges in. I go upstairs. I'm reading The Princess Bride. I’ve seen the movie a million times. Saw it in the theater in 1987 when it first came out. Our friend, Kate, read the book to her twin, my older sister, and me in one long-lasting, memorable slumber party night when they were visiting from out of town. I haven't tried to read it since then. I think this is one case where the movie is better than the book. Though the same elements are in residence since William Goldman wrote both the book and the movie’s screenplay. So there you go.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, February 22, 2015

The sun shines through the spare loft room’s window inching into the room where I am, shines down through the thin layer of snow covering the skylights. I stretch. Stretch again. Get up.

The world outside the windows is snow-blanketed and quiet. No moose. No fox. No coyotes. No wolves. Not in sight anyway. Even the wind is absent this morning.

I drink the leftover cup of coffee I made yesterday as I start the fire. Crossword. Granola for breakfast.

I look for cheap international flights online. I don't find anything good.

I read about Inigo’s childhood in The Princess Bride.

After the 11:00 generator shed reset, I put my ski boots on, add a fleece over my long underwear, put on my coat, and go ski up the road in the snowmobile tracks Todd made last Tuesday when he visited.

It's a cold day. The temperature never makes it over 14 degrees. But it's peaceful. The wind stirs snow out of the trees and puffs it into the air like magic fairy dust. The sky is blue. No clouds. Just magic snow dusting the air.

I use some of the techniques I'd learned watching ski videos last night and I zip along. It could be the new techniques or the snowmachine packed road that makes my going easier—or both. It's a little over a mile to the top property gate. Then I go about a mile more. I'm venturing out farther each time. My endurance is getting better. My pace quicker.

I eat a snack at the point I've chosen to turn around. Then I began the two mile return trip. I see a small flock of little birds. They chirp at me, they flit around trying to stay warm on this winter day. It's cold.

Twice, once for the right, once for the left, I stop to take off my gloves and put my fingers under my hair at the nape of my neck to cut the chill and warm them back up. The east wind is bitter. I love every minute of this excursion. When the Darwin ridge comes into sight I rejoice. A homecoming. A return. A successful run.

I sit with the cat while I still have all my warm gear on.

Then I go inside. I'm sitting at the computer when I happen to look out the window and see two snowmobilers in the east pasture. I still have my coat on. I grab my camera and sunglasses and go out on the porch to wave at them. They wave back, circle around, and come into the yard.

They are Mike and Matt from the forest service doing an eighty mile loop routine check of the area. They don't have time to come in for coffee. They still have about forty miles to go. We talk about what they do, what I do. They know people I've met here. "You know the Linns?" Mike asks.

"Peter Linn?" I ask. It turns out that Mike and Peter served together for years on the search and rescue team. Peter is the one who drove me from Jackson to the trailhead last winter where Greg and Dustin were waiting to snowmobile me in.

"Tell Pete hi if you talk to him," Mike says.

They say they will be back probably next weekend to do a moose count. "Do you have all your creature comforts?" they ask. They ask what I would need or really want if they came back. "No guarantees," they say. They say they would probably have time to stop in for coffee then. And then they're off, up the main road the way that I had skied only a short time before.

The cat stays in the roof until they're gone.

I get cleaned up. I eat a three egg omelet.

My grandmother calls.

I wash up the dishes. I write. I go do the walk around. The cat comes along, but it's too cold for her feet. I almost pick her up and carry her back. But she makes it on her own in the end. I sit out with her for a while. My ears are cold. It’s only two degrees and that east wind is brutal. I bring in a bunch of wood. Record the weather. Time to cozy in for the night.

I haven't seen any animals except human ones today. And the cat, of course. Well, and the birds I saw earlier on the trail… Okay, then, never mind.

I write a little bit.

Phinehas calls.

I eat broccoli and mandarin oranges for dinner. I write a little bit more.

I pour my glass of wine. Venus and Mars are stealing the sky show. The other stars are radiant nonetheless. If it weren't -19.5 degrees out I might go stargaze. Nothing like a cold night to bring out stellar brilliance. I, sadly, choose warmth instead.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, February 23, 2015

Eight weeks today.

Another cold spell has moved in. It's still -17degrees when I come downstairs. The low last night crept to a chilling -31.

A helicopter flies over the fields. Low. Searching. Maybe it's the forest service getting a head start on the moose count. The mama and baby are out in the northwest reeds, moved into sight by the low-flying chopper.

I had planned to ski up the dam road since the rangers snowmachined it down for me yesterday, but it may be too cold to get out.

Granola for breakfast. Two cups of coffee. The crossword.

It gets up to 17 degrees by noon which is warmer than yesterday so I gear up and ski across the field and over to the dam road in the tracks the forest rangers’ snowmobiles made. I go up to the first fence, catch my breath, pray I don't kill myself, and push off for a downhill adventure. I make it down in three separate runs. The first, I snowplow to a halt, reposition, gather my nerve, and go again. The second, I intentionally fall. This keeps me from going the last stretch at breakneck speed and also lets me practice my new tricks on getting up after falling. The third is a good run. I make it all the way down. I considered going up again and doing it over. But I don't have the stamina today. Instead, I retrace my path across the field, go up the main road to that first fence, catch my breath, pray I don't kill myself, and come quickly down. This is something like skiing.

I stop off at the root cellar on the way back in. I grab some apples, two cabbage heads, two cans of tuna, and a jar of Bubbies Dill Pickle Relish.

The cat and I sit in our chair when I get back to the lodge.

I get cleaned up. Wash my hair. Wash some clothes.

I read a little. Westley and Buttercup make it through the Fire Swamp. Buttercup goes off with Humperdinck. Westley is taken, tortured, and killed. Whoops, that's a spoiler alert.

I eat an apple. I read some more. Inigo and Fezzik survive the Zoo of Death.

I record the weather. The cat does not come with me tonight. Low of -31. High of 24. 11° at the time of observation. No precipitation.

I eat tuna for dinner. Tuna is turning into the widow’s oil jar—never empty—from the Bible story miracle of Elijah, or was it Elisha?

I read a bit longer.

Now it's time to write.

I hear scritch-scratching in the ceiling. Maybe the cat has made friends with those mice.

Another day gone by, another day to look forward to tomorrow.

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