The Last Morning of January

Deep cold has lingered for weeks, though the January sun is strong and already there’s a spring-like quality to the afternoon light, the way it slants across the landscape, across my upturned face, forces me to squint my eyes or simply close them altogether. We’re still a bit lean on snow – the blizzard tilted eastward and left us in its shadow – but the skiing in the woods and fields is excellent and by now I’m well enough acclimated to the weather that even this morning, at an even dozen degrees below, I soon found myself hatless and sweating as I climbed an old skid road deep in the woods just over the crest of the mountain. It was the first time I’d come this way, but already I knew I’d be back, I liked the openness of the trees – sugar maple, mostly, with a scattering of birch – and the contours of the land, rising steep on my left to rock abutments before topping out at what appeared to be a sort of plateau and dropping on my right into a snowed-in drainage where I suspected I could still find fluid water under the snow if I were inclined to go looking. Which I was not. The air was stone still and when I stopped to linger I could hear nothing but the muted noises of my body’s mysterious inner workings: A vaguely electrical hum that’s more sensation than sound, a steady whump, the occasional gurgle. Then back to it, leaning forward to get my weight positioned just right so that my skis would find traction against the slope.

An hour later I emerged from the woods into the full force of the sun and started gliding back toward the road along the edge of a large, south-facing logging cut, mindful of the stubble lurking just under the surface of the shallow snow. Yet the slope kept pitching downward, and the temptation to let ’em run got the best of me, and so I now I leaned back in hopes that doing so would allow the tips of my skis to ride up and over any unseen hazards until I was legitimately going pretty fucking fast with no real plan other than to keep riding it out and trying to gently steer between the more-obvious perils.

Soon I’d reached the bottom (with no ensuing calamity!) and then turned to ski atop the snowbank at the side of the mountain road, now in-and-out of the sun according to the placement of trees, the sensation of cold settling back into my body but even as I thought to reach for my hat, I could see the nose of the truck up around the bend and instead I just skied a little faster.

And that was the last morning of January.

7 thoughts on “The Last Morning of January”

  1. Sounds like a good one. We’re having unusual cold here in PA, so the snow has stuck around and we’ve actually had some great ski conditions. Love getting a good workout in the cold, then feeling that I’ve accomplished enough to earn the right to sit near the woodstove for the rest of the day.

  2. Lovely, as always. My boys go for the speed with their snowboards while I am more inclined to the steady hike through the snow with the dog and the occasional thrill of sledding down our hills while I can still (sort of) fit on the back of the sled with my youngest. Won’t be long till he is too big but, for now, I’ll hang on as long as I can – literally and figuratively. Stay warm and thanks for writing!

  3. Hi Ben….A strong feeling of evocative beauty washed over me as I read this. I’ll carry this for the remainder of this last day of January.

    Thank you for this post and photo!

  4. I have 50 tons of limestone and creek rock which I hope to turn into a small rock house before the snow flies in the fall. The footer is already poured. I know you heat and cook on a wood stove and I’m thinking about adding one in addition to my planned fireplace. Did you build your stove or buy it? Thinking of welding up a steel one…do you have any advice? I’m going to try to document this project on my web site where I do some writing that is sometimes similar to your work….other times, I go off the rails. I always enjoy the tranquility that you project. Thanks for sharing your writing.

    1. We bought it used. It’s a Heartland Oval. Same design was made under the Elmira brand before they sold it to Heartland. It’s a great stove, you can often find them for pennies on the dollar – we paid $900 for ours, and it had only been fired a handful of times. That said, if I had the skills and the inclination to build one… now, that would be cool! Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

  5. So happy I took the time to sit down and read about your day. Thank you for writing and sharing your daily journeys. I live in Dallas, Tx and our challenges are different., but I so appreciate glimpsing your life. Thank you.

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