Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Story: The season's last ski by Bruce Mero

The season’s last ski
by Bruce H. Mero

          Each time we ski may be the season’s last. The little snow pack we've accumulated here this winter is shrinking fast, yielding to a week of above freezing temperatures and warm rains. The lengthening daylight allows us a rare, late-afternoon ski on sun-warmed snow. I anticipate a softened surface, but the snow is actually firmer than expected and we ski fast.

          So far the snowpack is entire, no melt holes have yet appeared to detour us from our usual trail. The remains of previous ski tracks in the ice upon the pond are visible, however, today we will go around. There are open spots in the creek and the water running through the pond has melted places in the ice on both the inlet and outlet ends. At times our skis sink deep into the snow, places where the sun has carved holes beneath the surface. Melt water fills the track. We find no recognizable animal tracks, they have all melted away and only shadowy depressions remain where just days ago footprints were cast. We realize that with the passing of the snow we will miss the field notes the renewable snow-canvas records of daily activity in these fields. Reading this diary has been one of the pleasurable things that our frequent visits have provided this winter. Watching the retriever who accompanies us most times react to the scents lingering in each footprint in the snow has also been a treat. At times she will bury her muzzle beneath the surface at a print to extract its essence. Usually, she pulls away with a snort and moves along. At a coyote track, the hackles on her back stand erect and she looks around as if to catch a glimpse of a shadow moving away, low growls audible in her throat.

          A portion of the stone fence has emerged from the snow. A colony of luxuriously vibrant moss basks in its first light in months, looking as if it had not been winter here at all. Flat colonies of lichen growing upon the faces of the stones have already turned their tiny scales upward and also look like the recent mild days have been agreeable. As we pass through the gate in the fence, I am struck by the amount of litter on the snow surface.  In the field we had just come from, the snow was clean. Under the tree canopy, the difference is remarkable. Everywhere the snow is littered with a detritus of Beech leaves, bark-some pieces as large as I, twigs, Birch seeds, emptied husks of Beech nuts, samaras of Maple, Hemlock and Pine needles, knobby Larch twigs and cones, Maple leaves, emptied Locust seed pods, deer poop and more. At the base of each tree, the snow is gone and the forest floor visible. Green ferns and dried grasses lie flat to the ground. The setting sun has elongated the blue-gray tree shadows to infinity, between the shadows are pools of gold on the rippled snow. Droplets of snowmelt hang from the branches of a sapling Hemlock as iridescent crystals in the sunlight.

          As daylight wanes, and we begin our return, we encounter the Partridge remains we'd seen a few days earlier. The retriever shows great interest. Only feathers enough to line a mouse’s nest have been left by the foxes. These too will soon be gone.

          A warm, gusty wind and the last crescent of setting sun accompany our return. If this is, indeed, our last ski this season, I will surely miss it. Of course we are anxious for the warmer days, but these times on the snow have been spiritual and a place will be left empty in me in its absence.


  1. Loved your recap of winter and the ode to a season almost gone. I guess it has to go for us to appreciate it's return. Winter was sidetracked here, but at least I lived vicariously through someone else's experiences.
    Thank you for the fabulous Sunday Storytime. :)

  2. I love the snow, but I'm really looking forward to the summer...that's my favorite season. Love your pics...beautiful nature pics!


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