Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve morning

Winter has settled down to stay for a while at the High Mountain Lodge. It reminds me of the Christina Rossetti poem, In the bleak midwinter: "Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow." Soon even the tallest of the dead grasses down in the meadow will be under the snow.

There is, however, little that is bleak about a Colorado high-country winter. Even as I write this on the last day of the year, the sun is shining through the window of the office and dazzling me to the point I can barely see the computer screen. If the clouds, which mercifully acted as a blanket and kept the temperature above zero last night, abate as I expect them to do, the dry, cold air will mean that the sky will be so dark blue this afternoon that it will almost be purple.

Of course, there is a flurry of activity, what with the holidays and the New Year's celebrations. But even that bustle can't completely erode the serenity of the outdoors:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Decorating for Christmas

We bought a couple of permits from the Forest Service to cut trees: a Christmas tree for the dining lodge and one for the Atrium.

We drove only a few miles from the lodge to the national forest, and on a sunny day, it didn't take us long to find nice trees.

Note: I wrote "nice" trees; not perfect trees. One of the things about cutting a tree in the national forest instead of buying one from a lot is that you'll have to accept the vagaries of nature and what it does to its organisms--including trees. The trees we cut were long-needle pine trees, and even in the snow, we thought they were beautiful. We chose a shorter tree for the dining lodge and a larger tree for the Atrium.

We didn't notice until we got them home that the Atrium tree had been, shall we say, buffeted by nature and had a curve to it reminiscent, as Julie pointed out, of the sickle on the arab flag. So we have something of an Islamic Christmas tree set up in the pool Atrium.

When we bought the High Mountain Lodge, we inherited a couple of Christmas tree stands robust enough to stake out a California sequoia. We used one of them to set up the tree in the Atrium. It was something of an engineering struggle. We cut the tree to fit the space, but soon discovered that the pins in the tree stand were expecting something wider than the sissy tree we picked out and cut in the forest.

So from the beginning, the poor tree was a bit shaky in its stand.

I struggled mightily to stabilize it, including nailing the top to one of the ceiling joists in the Atrium. Then I hung the lights, and after a discussion, Julie and I decided to hang nothing but glass balls on the tree. Sort of a retro-decorating touch (actually, other than the balls, we were fresh out of ornaments, having never had to decorate two trees before).

The next day, I vacuumed the shed dead needles from around the tree and, after looking the tree over, decided that it should be moved a few inches to make a nicer sitting area next to it. I moved it, but then noticed that the curve of the tree was a bit stretched, so I decided to re-position the top of the tree (which I had nailed to the joist).

However, when I freed the top of the tree, because of the trunk's curvature, it sprang away from me and, before I could catch it, toppled down into the pool atrium.

Glass balls went flying everywhere, including onto the tarp over the pool. The foetid water solution to water the tree according to the formula the Forest Service had given us poured all over the oriental carpet in the Atrium sitting area , which immediately began to fade--most likely because of the bleach in the mixture intended to thwart the growth of mold.

I gave a shriek and almost fell off the stepstool. It was not my Finest Hour.

We got the tree back up today and redecorated it. I took a staple gun and tacked the top of the tree to the joists in three places. I made sure the star on the top branch wasn't going anywhere, either. If the world comes to an end tomorrow, that Christmas tree will still be stuck to that beam long after we are all dead.

All I can say is, our guests better appreciate that damn tree.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Shoveling

Robert Frost famously wrote, "Something there is that doesn't like a wall."

Well, I have a paraphrase of that: "Something there is that doesn't like a shoveled walk."

This morning dawned partially sunny with a promise of warming temperatures. We thought it was going to be a bright day! Alas, God and Meteorology had a different idea. The weather has been darkening all day, though the only snow we've been getting has been because of the wind.

The wind. That's the problem. Julie and I managed to get the walkways around the lodge cleared just about the time the wind kicked up. To look at the place now, you'd think it had never occurred to us to shovel the walks. Even the piles of snow I threw off the walks have been drifted over and look "natural."

Silly man that I am, I'd planned on keeping the sidewalks and walkways around the lodge pristine throughout the winter. I've revised that plan. Right now, I figure if I can just keep walkways to the guest lodge and the parking lot cleared--at least enough so that people won't founder in the snow and have to have Murphy the Lodgedog sent out to rescue them.

Frost concluded his poem with, "Good fences make good neighbors." My paraphrase ends, "Good shoveled walks make happy guests."


All the Denver media have been commenting recently on how cold it is, and how early the cold came.

I suppose in an urban environment, where cold and snow can indeed make life miserable for so many people, it's not surprising that the TV and radio stations--and even the paper--will utter Cassandra-like cries when the snow begins to fly.

But up here, when the snow flies, it's good news. The skiing gets better and people start to think about winter sports.

Even the cold doesn't seem so severe up here as it does down in the Big City.

This morning, the sun rose into a partly-cloudy sky, and light gradually crawled down the side of Sheep Mountain and over the meadow down below the lodge. It's stunningly beautiful here right now, and as the winter deepens, it only promises to become more so.