Five Winters Later

The first notice came at 2am Monday morning. It was Debul. He showed up at my bedside, naked. He couldn’t fall back asleep, even with legs up the wall. I got out of bed and went upstairs to his room with him. He put on a pair of skivvies and i crawled in next to him on his bunk. He shoved over one of his mooshed up pillows as his offering of gratitude. If i shifted just a touch, he regrasped my arms and drew them closer to him. He was a little furnace. I stayed for a few hours, and then retreated to my bed around 4:30. i knew it was just the start. DeepWoods left for a week in Nashville Monday night.

He was down and out for two days. Highish fever and a puddle of a snuggle. Needed to be attached to me, or bymyside. i didn’t pretend to mind. it was a treat to have him home. our days were gentle…even the Tuesday morning when we drove Crit into school when it was -23. we learned a bit about chess, listened to Kiran music (his choice), painted together, drank tea and juice and smoothies. Crit began to suffer Wednesday morning. Hers was a slower onset. the crux for both of them involved much sleep and rest and being wherever i am, and many whines and whimpers. it sucks to be sick.

we’ve been simmering bone broth, brewing honey lemon teas of all sorts, spreading oils on our feet and wearing cabin socks. guzzling apple cider vinegar and popping slices of clementine oranges. my workout includes following them around and picking up every single thing they touch and scurrying it off to the laundry. spritzing detoxifying oils into the air, vacuuming twice a day, wiping down all surfaces with soapy water, burning incense, and dodging face kisses and coughs. also filling the pellet stove, the dog food, and remaking the beds with clean sheets every day. i did put a limit on pillows. you can sleep wherever your wee little fevered heart desires, but you must use the same sleeping bag with the same pillow and pillowcase at every location. the rest have been laundered and are not available for use during this plague. i’m down to washing fitted sheets, sleeping bags, and pillowcases. Crit is sleeping on my bed, Debul is sleeping underneath it.

it’s been a super duper mild winter. in ever sense. the snowfall has been the mildest of all the winters since we’ve been out here. the temperatures seem familiar though. plenty of mornings that are colder than -25. evenings galore where your eyes can see more stars than your brain can imagine. i was a bit razzamafrazzama about it until i made myself let it go. actually, it happened the weekend i borrowed the DART fat tire bike. as soon as i got it home, it began to snow, and it snowed enough that the road beyond the driveway was no longer drivable. i never ended up riding the bike, cause suddenly i could ski – and i love having a season for everything.

At the threshold of the new year, I declared myself a Polar Explorer. It began by following my friend Maria’s husband. He is an actual legitimate polar explorer. it says so on his website. and he’s been to the the top of Everest and to both poles, so he has actual credibility. he didn’t just wake up one morning and declare that he was…or did he? I’m not certain, we’ve never met.

i woke up and proclaimed it to whoever would listen. same old sets of ears who my declared quests fall upon. Shank, Deep Woods, Crit and Debul. I vowed to ski or snowshoe or somehow winter travel and recreate every day of January. and then January had the lamest snow fall ever. the start was rocky, but nevertheless, she persisted. after the first week, i did ski or snowshoe, or winter travel and recreate every single day. and it was marvelous. had all the payoffs i banked on. even though this winter is nothing like the one i had spent time conjuring up in my mind. it fell short expectation i had.

but don’t i know better about expectation? don’t i know that the source of much suffering lies within expectation? we went to the ski swap. we endured the epic morning of overstimulation and chaos, because we had an end game. the four of us were going to be hitting up the foothills ’round here. we were gonna explore the moderately vertical hood. we were gonna side-by-side to the tops of things, and downhill to the bottom. get scooped up and try it all over again. every other year i spied the summits with longing for the day that we had the ability to surf them. and this year we have the ability, and the equipment, but not the snow.

plan b is not awful. plan b is x-country skiing all over the place out here. every road is up – for as long as i want it to be with only the sound of my steadying breath, and back down floating through a sea of silence.

last week, was the first i had to take a plow lap all season. i can’t lie. my heart was a tad bit flitter-flutter about it. when i went for my run, the conditions were ideal. the sunshine kept its beams at a respectable angle to honor the contours of the snow, and the road, and the banks. it does not typically play that kind of nice. the temperature was perfect for allowing the freshly blown snow on the windshield to melt and dissipate instead of creating clumps of icebergs that bugger with the potential zen of the experience. honest-to-god, i operate that plow like a boss. DW is better, the homies are quick to remind me when i get full of my britches. but i’m a kick-ass side-kick.

this winter DW has been around more than ever before. Most Februarys since we moved out to the edge of it all, he has only been in town 1-4 days – total – for the month. i’ve been handling Februarys on my own. Februarys have been my growth spurts.

Before i moved out here, before i married DW and grew my life to include Crit and Debul, i was in search of grace. I recall writing about it the summer that Czas oversaw the death of the 30+ year old cactuses. i have been strong for as long as i know. and i have learned to practice being soft since Tracey Burke first instructed me. what i truly strive for is that smooth flowing liquid energy that grace seems to float on.

i knew i’d have to work for it. it’s the only way to anything. i knew that i’d have to begin to stack the bricks. to put myself in difficult situations and trying times, and notice the choices i made. be keenly aware of my actions and my reactions. and to refine it all. without judgement. not getting all held back by the choices i’ve made and the person i’ve been, but busting out of all that and reframing it into the person i strive to be, and the choices that are yet in front of me. dream my life, live my dream.

this sick week was not awful. Five years into it out here, and the kids are where they are supposed to be. they know what to ask for. they know how to take care of themselves. when the funk began to swallow us up, they each asked for oils on their feet and their chest. they asked for the bone broth. they requested the honey lemon teas. they found little forts to rest in. they asked to be snuggled constantly, and i obliged each and every time.

when they woke up on Friday morning, both their fevers had broke and they seemed like themselfish again. i outlined the schedule on the fridge. Outdoor, fresh-air, activity was on the list. they just had to decide what it would be and when it should be planned.

bestillmybeatingheart when they chose to cross country ski to Big Tree. and once it was decided, there was no further ta-doo about it. We skied to Big Tree. and it was loads of fun. i couldn’t help but compare our adventure to the same situation five years earlier.

back then, we made it to Big Tree. i think three times the first winter. there was never a groomed trail. there was so very much we didn’t know back then, or couldn’t have even dealt wth cause we didn’t have the right stuff. i used to spend my entire morning lining up all the gear each kid would need to make it to Big Tree. i made wee little people out of puffy gear on our floor. two sets of boots, two sets of wool socks, two sets of poly pro, two sets of weather proof out gear, two sets of bomber proof mittens, two sets of warm hats. if they wanted to give a whirl at skiing, it was much more. so sometimes, i encouraged just hitching along in the chariot.

i went for it. as often as i could while maintaining sanity. sometimes it went smooth like gravy, other times it went smooth like rotten milk in July. but i kept trying. those first two winters, it was the ONLY thing on the to-do list. i didn’t know what i didn’t know, so i floundered greatly. my drill was to do it. to get out there and do it. and experience all the joys that come from living outside your comfort zone to keep you family safe and happy and healthy. who knows the impact all that early childhood development has – but i know my peeps experienced it differently than every other kid in the United States of America. i knew we were living deep inside our once in a lifetime wildest dream.

today, the three of us and Birch and Joox skied out to Big Tree. i ripped open a bag of Skittles for each homie when we got to the turn-around point. it was anti-climactic. they were hoping for a hot drink. I’ve been single parenting two kids with the flu since monday morning. sorry, not a chance of me sherpa-ing out hot drinks to the spot i was not certain (but pretty sure) that we should make it to. they said Skittles were an awful winter snack choice. i couldn’t disagree. it was impossible for their little mitten hands to ferry out the Skittle from the wee little rip in the corner of the wee little snack bag. and even less possible to fish out the ones that fell overboard from the snow.

once we arrived i was flooded with flashbacks. the homies were too i think. we have arrived at Big Tree so many times in the past five years. on skis, in backpacks, in chariot, on foot, on bikes, on tubes, and on rafts. it’s a place. a landmark and a milestone. it’s a bit like a threshold in an old house that honors the growing height of each child. we live in somebody else’s house, so we don’t have one of those. but we have Big Tree. and we have my recordings of what our stops at Big Tree were like.

when we came home, they asked for yoga. honesttofuckinggod, they asked for a couple of particular yoga sessions they have experienced in the past and wanted to feel again. yes. okay. they asked for snack dinner and to sleep in my bed again. Crit on top, Debul underneath, still. each with his own sleeping bag and pillow.

Took a lap in the plow truck every other day this week. there was not much new snow, but the winds were fierce. DW arrived home late last night and with him came the falling snow. It’s a real winter day. The homies are happy and healthy again. They rode to town with DW to scoop up a ton of pellets and provisions. I went out for a polar expedition. i buckled up my boots and strapped them into my newly ski-swapped tele-skis right on my front porch. i marched out with purpose. to burn off the residual negative energy that lurks from being cooped up for a week with two sick homies. mission accomplished.

Five years later, i am a Polar Explorer.