Tuesday, February 11, 2014

trolls and yetis

There is a cross country ski center in Bethel where we have skied together as a family since before Elliott was walking.  

Where once I pulled him behind me while he slept in a red canvas-topped, sled-bottomed pulk, he now powers himself around the trails.  The shortest amongst us, he is definitely doing a lot of work to keep up with us.  So sometimes it is too much and he reminds us that he needs to rest.  

Or sometimes, he just needs to be given the chance to take off his skis, move off the trail, and be allowed to explore in the way he would like.

And sometimes, perhaps released by some well camouflaged ski patrol person in the woods with a cage, a snowshoe hare as large as a wild turkey needs to start rustling around in the woods.  Conveniently right next to where Elliott has collapsed and lies rather pathetically on his side, eyes beginning to well up with fatigue and frustration.

And then that hare just sits there, so still, once it has attracted our attention, so we can move in close, and take lots and lots of blurry iPhone pictures of it.

And then, also, for Elliott and Jonathan to have a chance to play in the woods for a bit, while Julia Nicholas and I head off to attack a black diamond trail.  Seriously, you could call the path to our compost bin a black diamond trail and suddenly they are motivated to try it.  But while we tackled The Corkscrew, Jonathan and Elliott played, and snacked, and sat quietly, and made funny faces and documented a tale of pretend woodland drama, again, on his iPhone.  Selfies were made and enjoyed.

Sometimes Elliott, and really, all three children, need some external motivation to keep on swishing.  It can be the leftover Halloween candy that I squirrel away in the back of the cabinet over our refrigerator.

When one of the hills on The Corkscrew did Julia in, sobbing in an awkward heap, flat on her stomach, half way up said hill, preventing herself from sliding back down and swiping Nicholas (who really has no sense of the wisdom of personal space on a steep hill when you are behind your exhausted sister) along with her, her hands like claws, screeching down the ice like fingernails on a chalkboard, I reached into the secret pocket of my parka.  Pulled out a piece of old candy magic.  Took off my skis and skittled down to her.  Said, lovingly, of course: Don't speak.  Until the sugar has reached your brain.  And pulled her up that hill in her splayed position with my own brute strength.

Meanwhile, Jonathan and Elliott were alternating between gorging themselves from the snack bag and dancing like carefree Yetis through the trees some distance away.  Giggling.

Another one of these motivators to keep swishing along is a series of Forrest Trolls that have been hidden along the trails, marked on the center's trail maps in red pen dots.  

These are funny people.  Both the trolls and the people who work at the ski center.

We usually find four, and then struggle with the fifth, that is not exactly where we expect it to be. Usually, there is some back and forth skiing, some of us going on ahead.  And circling back.  This year, Elliott was the one to finally spy the troll who was hiding behind a stand of trees -- having just eluded his carefully searching siblings.

I swear, whoever created the Forest Trolls is a genius.  Because after you collect the stamps that are attached to each of the trolls, one can return to the lodge and get a treat.  This year the treat was a cup of hot chocolate, though in years past it has been a large cookie the size of their face.  Given that we forgot our large thermos of hot chocolate at home this year, hot cocoa turned out to be just perfect.

Note: One year, the search went on so long that the Ski Center closed before we made it back for our cookie reward.  Oh.  The Horror.  

But embracing the cold and the snow and the ice and this winter as much as we do here, there are times when you just need a bit of encouragement to get through.  When, for example you wake up and the fires have gone cold and the thermometer outside says it is -8 degrees and three inches of fresh snow have fallen overnight on the cars and on the driveway and on the skating rink that you spent four hours shoveling the day before.  

It's beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.  But no matter the beauty, -8 is cold.  No matter how you shake it...or are shaking.

* * *

Apparently I could use a few trolls in the woods, or yetis in the snowfield, myself.  This week we find ourselves thinking summer, looking ahead to sun and warmth while we don our parkas and sled on the back hill.  We have made our reservations at our favorite campgrounds, our calendar is beginning to hold some camp plans for the kids, and I am finding myself trolling both the farm and garden section and the camping supplies of Craigslist.  Just what do I need to make the wonderful season of summer even better?  And these imaginings of the summer to come are like a hit of sugar to my chilly and sun deprived mind.

It certainly starts here.

Along with expanding the size of our garden this year to allow room for what we wished we had grown more of this past summer, as well as trying our hand at growing a bit of our own grain, we also have plans to begin to develop our very own prairie.  This entails allowing large swatches of lawn to go to meadow with seeding for beneficial bee and insect forage throughout the summer.  Plus, we won't have to mow it.

This will include, gasp, seeding for clover.  And dandelions.

Don't tell the neighbors.

And also, we plan to add to our fruit patch and continue to add a few trees each year to our small orchard.  And begin to welcome other pollinators to help our yield, besides just the honeybee.

It's my goal to proudly fill my station wagon this year when I pick up our Fedco order.

Some seeds do not need to be purchased this year.  Seed saving was done here with pumpkins gifted to us by Elliott's teacher/farmer.  These are the best seeds of all.

Somehow, this planning and looking ahead is allowing us to also enjoy what is here now.  A blanket of snow.  Temperatures cold enough to skate every day.  A snow fort is being constructed in the middle of the river.  An amazing sledding trail takes us from the cemetery, twisting and turning and zipping under branches and finally emptying onto the river and skating across.  And a warm fire to return to in the house.

Although no Yetis have yet been sighted, we are carefully watching for large footprints.

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