Although I’ve lived in New England for over 40 years I don’t think I’ve ever quite come to terms with winter’s ice and snow. I moved to western Massachusetts from southern Ohio in the mid 1970s. My soon to be ex-boyfriend and I lived on top of Hawley mountain in a ramshackle old farmhouse and I commuted into Greenfield each day for work, sliding down the winding mountain road in my blue Chevy Nova and skidding back up again at the end of the day, the car’s rear wheel drive barely keeping me on the road. I hated that drive down the mountain. But I learned the value of studded snow tires, learned to drive into the skid, carry a sleeping bag, sand, shovel, warm boots with me, learned how to survive winter driving, survive winter.
And that first winter wasn’t all roadway terror. There was the night I borrowed snowshoes and under a full moon went for a midnight tromp across potato fields. The moon reflected off the snowy fields with a bright blue-white light and my body cast a long shadow. For those moments it was just me and the cold air and my strong body, the moon and the snow and I could forget how unhappy I was in the falling down farmhouse and the falling apart relationship.
I bought my own snowshoes, the old fashioned kind, long and webbed, with straps that were impossible to buckle with cold fingers. I used them on a first date with a promising guy. We bushwhacked through the woods, looking for tracks of all the wild creatures. That relationship faltered and died but I still remember crouching low to look at the marks in the snow, reading the story of the forest’s winter life.
I held onto those snow shoes for many years and would occasionally strap them on to make my way around my property in snowy winters. I’d rake the roof, fill the bird feeders, go explore the field behind the house. The cats would hop along behind in the big oval tracks.
I gave those old style snowshoes away in a recent garage clean out and haven’t replaced them. In the past few years I’ve acquired titanium hips and knees and I’m not sure how they’d respond to the knees-up gait of snowshoeing through fresh powder. I appreciate the beauty of freshly fallen snow, especially early in the winter season, but I’m soon ready for it to just melt away.