Monday, March 10, 2014

Here in the North Fork Valley, at about 5,600 feet, it feels like spring. There are robins. The sun is still shining when I get home from work. The river is brown and churning and smells like wet earth. 

Today I went for my first good bike ride of the season, feeling every one of my leg muscles on the uphills and grinning wildly on the downs. I passed stiff-legged newborn calves blinking in the bright light and donkeys standing placidly in fields, smiling at the earth. Horses kicking their hooves in sheer joy. I know how they feel. Spring -- even false spring, with more wintry weather likely to come -- stirs a kind of happiness so distinct it should have its own name. Sun on your cheeks. Bare skin. The smell of dirt. One of the reasons I like a good hard winter is so I can really appreciate spring when it comes.

Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- makes me happier than the changing seasons. I thrive on change, and if I can't travel as often as I like or pack my house up every six months, I've decided I must live somewhere with four seasons. Three times in the last decade I've skipped winter (in Hawaii, the Marshall Islands and New Zealand) and now I've sworn to never again live without months of cold and snow; without wood fires and soup-making and early nights. Without winter, there couldn't be fall or spring. Everything would be the same all the time, stagnant and warm and boring, the same foods and the same smells. I won't have it.

It's false spring in the valley, but up in the mountains, at 11,000 feet, winter still holds fast. Last weekend I went to a friend's cabin the day after a storm and backcountry snowboarded through deep, fresh powder for the first time ever, cutting S-shaped tracks through unbroken alpine meadows. Holy god. I'm a convert.

First we skinned and snowshoed up through the clouds:


At the top, the clouds began to lift, and my lungs and legs were burning. I swore I'd only ski down once, because no way in hell was I hiking back up:

Ten minutes later with a shit-eating grin on my face, I gamely turned around for another run. The clouds broke up like ice from a river:

Best. Skiing. Ever.

A man, his dog and a beer in the alpine sunshine. I don't think anything could be better.

Life is so beautiful lately I wish I could stop time and prevent anything from marring this perfection. But I know the darkness is inevitable, and I'm not afraid. Spring will always return.

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