Some Heavy Shit


The moon shining through the window wakes me earlier than usual. It’s so bright I can see the unlit numbers on the little clock I keep on the windowsill above my head: 4:27. I won’t fall back to sleep, I know, so I tiptoe downstairs and light a fire. Do the coffee thing.

Last night I skied after dark, except it wasn’t really dark, already the moon was casting ethereal light, enough to forgo a headlamp, even in the deep woods, and the trees seemed to stretch upward forever against the blue-black sky. It was cold and so, so quiet. I skied a different route than usual, straight down the driveway and through town, past the old church, plenty of snow to ski the road’s shoulder. A car drove by and honked a friendly honk, just the briefest tap to the horn. I turned into Bob’s field and started to climb.

It’s been an amazing winter, maybe not one for the record books, but still. Snow on the ground since mid-November, and only a handful of brief, inconsequential thaws. I just finished clearing a half-mile driveway that hadn’t been plowed all year, up the road another 500 or so feet in elevation, and in places the undrifted snow was an honest 5 or 6 feet deep. Even with the big bucket on the tractor it was like bailing a bathtub with a teaspoon, and it took nearly 20 hours, but now it’s done.

I have skied and skied and skied, and twice a week or so my sons and I drive 15 miles to a small basement gym where we lift weights and laugh, then drive home, loving that flush of sweet blood to our labored muscles. It is a humble little gym, none of those complicated machines, just a couple of benches and lots of iron. There are smelling salts on the window sill, and the first time we went, against my best advice, the boys thought to give them a go. They haven’t done so again.

So this has been my secret to surviving this eternal winter: glide through the moonlit forest, staring up at the endlessly reaching maple and birch, stopping where the stream still runs under the depths of snow to hear its muffled gurgle. And then, twice each week, descend the creaky stairs to that little room with my two teenage sons, put the music on loud, and lift some heavy shit.