By Peter Fitzmaurice
It’s that time of year again. The brilliant wolf moon turned the night snow surface into millions of shiny diamonds. Snow-laden trees cast crisp dark shadows around the house. The gang of three bushy coyotes that has been hanging around slinks noiselessly behind the carport — noiseless until they stop to raise their voices in a wild cacophony of yelps and howls. It’s early in the year, the time when it is supposed to be cold.
House dog Abbi, every year with a bit more grey under her muzzle, whined and wiggled in delight as her missing two kids returned from college. She followed everyone around and snuggled up with each when the opportunities arose. She later sat nervously watching as bags were again packed and loaded into cars for the inevitable departure. It is much quieter around here again now, and Dog notices.
For that glorious brief period the refrigerator and pantry were sacked each day. “There’s nothing to eat”… Dirty dishes multiplied in ways we had forgotten. The trash was full. We had an early morning adventure pulling one child and car out of a deep snow shoulder with the temperature dipping to minus 13 degrees — it will be the stuff of laughter one day. As I hugged each one goodbye I think I kept my voice from cracking too audibly, suppressed the urge to cling and not let go.
Valley friends from high school had paraded through the house, their laughter and bright spirits bouncing off the walls as though nothing had changed, though much has. I am flooded with memories of their younger selves just hanging out here, of transporting them from countless sports events, dances, and so many other activities. With great joy I see what bright young adults they have become.
Driving home from Winthrop the other night we encountered a mountain lion standing in the middle of the road just east of the Weeman Bridge. It turned and ran off the road, giving us a full side profile of its body and long tail. It was a big beautiful cat. Though we have heard of sightings and seen the occasional tracks, it is the first lion for us since moving here in 2006. It is a wild world — we live at its edge and only see a fraction of all that goes on in it.
We’re back to just three of us. Child No. 3 will be here this and next year, and then the real change will begin. Yes, we are in the deep winter. There is plenty of time to ski, to feel the full embrace of winter. Far too early to be pining for the first buds of willow, for the rich perfume of cottonwood sap. Much wintertime remains for the essential business of contemplating one’s place in the universe.
Dog and I will continue our daily local explorations, each of us a bit slower than in previous years. I know I cannot do this forever. Life is such a random string of circumstance and serendipity. A good friend survived his recent sub-cranial bleed. My sister-in-law is holding her cancer at bay. Why am I still here, when I know so many who have passed on?
Winter will pass. Spring will flood in, and I will exult in its glory while I simultaneously lament that it is so heartbreakingly fleeting. We hope that our wandering offspring and their friends will bless us with some time again. Summer will blaze and fade into fall. If I am lucky, I will make it to another sublime winter, and then another. The seasons will turn, whether I am there to notice or not. I plan to embrace as many as I can.
Peter Fitzmaurice lives in Mazama.