Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas On the Lake

     With the ice more that a foot thick and and layer of snow covering it, the lake has become the winter playground.  Today on Christmas with the wind blowing fifteen and the temperature about the same, a couple dozen skiers celebrated the holiday by skiing the groomed trail that winds around the lake.  We also saw the first of the kite skiers on the lake with their colorful wings of bright nylon.
     The freeze and thaw of last week left our ski trails hard and fast.  When we drag the Ginzugroomer over it, the surface is broken and crumbled into tiny balls of snow so that some times our skis are gliding on ball bearings, and while the packed surface won't give enough to let us dig in with the ski edge, it takes little to push a skier along fast and smooth.  The wind will be biting the cheeks -- all four if we stay out long enough -- fingers will tingle from the chilling they getting working out on the wind and the cold.  Muscles of the arms, legs, and back will be subtle and warm from the work and even in the chill, sweat comes down the back and wets the shoulder blades while our breath is freezing on whiskers and face masks.
       Warm now by the fire, I hear the wind work around the porch and huff in the chimney of the woodstove.  The increased draft makes the fire burn hot and fast in the night and one shoulder is warmer than the other but I won't move from this cozy place.  The whiskey in the glass is sharp like the bite of the wind but is warm instead of cold.  The wind is up to twenty and gusting to thirty, and it makes the stars twinkle even more than normal.  I'll check often tonight for the aurora, the northern lights, for I saw hints of it last night but could not stay up long enough for the full shown.  At the Solstice, Christmas, and New Year's turning, we can feel the harsh bite of winter on our backs and only trust in the cycle of life, the turning and tilt of the planet, that the warming sun has not left us forever, and the cold windy night are here to make the fine days so much richer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Morning in December

            The Farmer's Almanac call today the "Cold Full Moon" and is it all of those.  Solstice is on the horizon so the days are short at the lake and at nine am we are watch the glow of dawn in the mountain peaks.  By ten am we are in full daylight but no sunlight strikes us.  The sun is only shining on the three thousand foot peaks around us.  We’ll only have direct sunlight for a couple hours during midday and there will be little warmth in it.  The sky is clear and the temperature around 6 degrees Fahrenheit.  With the fair weather we have hard a north wind that blew over twenty miles an hour last night. 
            The wind has reworked the postcard snow that arrived over the weekend.  The ski trail is obliterated and the trails of snow machines, moose, and snowshoes are incorporated into drifts and scour marks that cover the surface of the lake.  We try to keep a groomed ski trail around the lake through the winter, and it had an Olympic quality finish yesterday when we were skiing.  We had a warning then that it wouldn’t last for even then the wind was up and the temperature down, so we were pretty well bundled when we headed out.  The gusts were pushing the snow off the trees along the shore, creating tiny brief blizzards in the treetops, tumbling down through the green boughs to rest for a time on the snow beneath. 
            This week was the first skiing on the lake this year and the inconsistent weather in November has deprived us good ice for skating.  Living here on the lake we have found that good skating ice on a lake is a rare thing that comes of flat water freezing in still air without being stirred by wind and staying could enough for long enough for the ice to be thick and permanent.  This year we had none of these.   The wind kept the water tumbling as it froze so the south shore of the lake became a rumbled blanket of dirty ice then the rain would come with a warm-up and breakdown the ice so that it reformed even rougher.  By the time the lake was full frozen and we waited for it to thicken enough to skate on, the snow came in and now bonded to ice.   The waves are back on the lake, but they are waves of snow shaped by the north wind.