One conversation at the table during the fancy dinner was about what we did during the ogreish cold of winter here in the Bark-of-Beyond. People argue other’s personal preferences and call it conversation. We all know that. Someone asked me what I liked to do in winter, and when I said “Go outside,” it caused a minor ruckus. Voices were raised in protest, but I stuck to my guns, “I love the cold. I’m out in it whenever I can.” I added that I loved it in May when people started reappearing, and that helped a little. When winter arrived yesterday, Bear and I didn’t hesitate. We know what we love.
The snow wasn’t deep, just a few inches, and the day wasn’t exactly cold, but cold enough not to melt the snow in a flash of San Luis Valley sunlight. No surprise that we were alone out there, except for two geese and one poor hungry Harris hawk. As I watched him flying low over the snowy world I thought that raptors’ great energy-saving efficiency in flight is an evolutionary feature of not getting to eat often and having to fly far to find food. They must get enough or they wouldn’t stick around, but not more than that.
We took Bear’s favorite trail, a path built around a pond that often overflows in spring. For me, it was wonderful because I could see what Bear smells. A fox had been hunting earlier that morning. Kangaroo rats and deer mice left their furtive traces. If snow is a transient catalog of events (it is), it was earlier yesterday morning, around the same time the fox was after them. Bear was fascinated by the fox — and has been even when I couldn’t see any evidence of his passing. But now I know what appeals to her so much. At one point it looked like the story went sideways for some little creature and the fox got breakfast.
We finished that small loop (1/3 mile) and continued on the main road. Bear found even more wonders — including the snow itself — and a couple of times nearly pulled me into a shallow ditch. I wish I didn’t have to leash her, but I do. First, it’s the rule at the Refuge; second, she would roam. It’s part of the nature of her breed. She’d come back sooner or later. I’m even sure she’d come all the way HOME if she got loose, but she’s my Bear, and when I adopted her I promised her I would keep her safe. Dogs like her who are employed and working with sheep stay with their sheep, but that was not to be Bear’s destiny. I try to give her at least SOME of that life, and, since she’s always been here with me, I don’t think she knows the difference.
She finally found something worth rolling in and made a snow angel.
As we walked, a squall formed over the Refuge and, lucky for us with our perverse idea of fun, it snowed. We just stood there for a while and savored it. Last year we had ONE snowstorm and it was in January. This really felt too good to be true. Where snow is concerned I learned in Southern California to seize the day. Good training for this desert valley. Some winters we get a LOT of snow; some winters next to none. We have rain shadows in all directions. The BEST direction for snow to actually reach us is from the south or southwest and that’s what brought this storm. This is what the first snow looks like falling on the natural landscape of the San Luis Valley. All the plants are perfectly designed to capture moisture.
Bear and I were pretty bushed when we got home after a couple hours out there.
I sometimes feel as if Bear thinks I GAVE her the snow, but it is definitely a bond between us. Teddy is OK with it, but Bear truly loves it. She’s out in the yard right now taking a nap in it. This is what she did last night, snoring softly and smiling in her sleep.