Six days a week my son’s alarm goes off at 4:30. He’s working a big sugaring operation an hour-plus drive from here; they start at first light and end at last, and some nights even later than that. They’ve got maybe 5 weeks to make it or break it, and those 5 weeks start about now. Last year, they broke it, and so did pretty much everyone else making syrup. It won’t be good if that happens again, though I hear prices are up, and some are speculating that all the cold nights we’ve had are setting us up for a good season. Then again, someone’s always speculating about something, are they not?
Over the weekend, I ski with an old friend, someone I haven’t seen for nearly two years. I take him on my favorite loop, the one that climbs up through a shallow saddle, then veers up and to the right to the knife’s edge of a ridge that drops in a series of cliff bands to the east. We trace the ridge northward along the edge of the cliffs, then cross to the next ridge over, and follow it back to our starting point. The new snow – six inches or more – is so, so smooth and light, there’s hardly any moisture to it at all, it’s like cold dust, like smoke, like something that appears in a dream from which you awaken unable discern fact from fiction. And maybe even unsure if such discernment is necessary.
The news unfolds in slow-moving tragedy; one hardly knows how to respond. Renounce the Russian vodka, I suppose. Pay what it costs to fill the damn truck and be grateful you’re not huddled in some damp basement waiting for the strike you know is coming, just not when. Hope for the things that seem the least possible, while not closing an eye to those that seem the most.
Then just do what needs to be done. Get up in the dark with your son. Light the fire. Make the coffee. And for God’s sake, don’t you dare forget to give him a hug as he walks out that door.