Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Rhythms of Winter

In one of his early songs, Dan Fogleberg crooned:
The end of October, the sleepy brown woods
seem to bow down their heads to the winter.

This hasn't been our experience with winter at the High Mountain Lodge. Perhaps the woods are, indeed, asleep for the winter, but the light, the interplay of clouds with the landscape, and the patterns of the days and nights certainly are dynamic enough when they aren't downright dramatic. And the weather; lordy, the weather sure doesn't go to sleep for the winter.

There is a rhythm and a pattern to a day, just as our bodies have  rhythms. As we have been learning the patterns of innkeeping, we have also found our rhythms adjusting to those of the outside--what the English Romantic poets called "nature."

There are certain things that have to be done: there is breakfast to be prepared; rooms to be cleaned and tidied; laundry to be washed. If it snows, walks must be shoveled.

 The mornings never cease to surprise us. Years ago when our son, Mark, was a very little guy, he noticed a particularly dramatic sunset and called it a "pinkset." That usage has become currency in the family lexicon. We now have "pinkrises" in addition to pinksets.

On particularly cold mornings, moisture condenses into mist in the Spring Branch valley. It looks as if God had poured milk into the lowlands. But as the sun warms the landscape, the mist thins and rises and is not infrequently tinged pink by the early-morning alpenglow.

Even on the coldest of days--which around here get mighty cold, indeed--the sun will warm the deck between the guest lodge and the dining lodge that houses our office as well as our owners' quarters. By noon, when the low southern sun has warmed our unheated office enough that we can turn off the space heater, we are tempted to imagine that it's warm enough to get a tan out on the deck--until we step outside and the chill puts the lie to that fantasy.

Late afternoons and early winter evenings are perhaps the best time at the High Mountain Lodge. The sunsets can be dramatic, but usually they're not. God seems to save the visual evening sturm und drang for the summertime. This time of the year, the cold comes on quickly. It's a time for lighting fires, getting acquainted with guests, making new friends. Over a glass of wine, a beer, or a cup of hot chocolate, the next days exploits can be plotted before soaking the ski soreness out in the hot tub.

Night comes early at the High Mountain Lodge, but even though the days are short, they are filled with joy and light and adventure. Cold though it is, it's too soon to start yearning for spring. There's still too much fun to be had in the snow.

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