February 1, 2022

Where are all the sticks?


To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.



Finally, we got our first real snowstorm of the season.  It left about five inches of the cold, white, fluffy stuff on the ground.  The snowfall was recent enough that they haven’t plowed it yet.  So, it’s work plodding through it; a struggle that leaves a trenched wake punctuated by vaguely boot-shaped holes.  It’s cold enough that the snow retains a powdery consistency — light and easily pushed aside.  Even the hardpack I leave underfoot has more of a suggestion of solidity than the real thing.  Because of its lack of cohesiveness, my boots bite into it effectively, giving me plenty of traction, even with Waldo pulling at the end of the leash.  Other than the fact that I am working up a sweat lifting my feet high enough to clear the snow for the next step, the worst part of it is the uneven surface left behind by those who trod here before me. That shifts my weight enough that I have to use seldom-exercised small muscles to maintain my balance and adds to the workload.

Waldo, he’s in his element.  He bounds through the white powder, leaving his own paw-holes and trenches, moving with grace in wide arcing, soaring leaps that end in a forepaw pounce at undisturbed snow, targeting some imagined beastie that is not there.  His one complaint, if he has one at all, is that all the sticks are buried under an opaque ivory carpet, keeping them well hidden.  He’s not long deterred, though.  He saunters over to a bush and tugs at the lower branches until he’s able to break off a small twig to carry around between his jaws.  Then he runs up to me and nudges my glove with his nose.  I try to explain to him that the twig is too small to play with, that there’s not enough there to play tug-of-war, or, even if I could get it away from him, it’s not big enough to throw.  But he’s not listening.  I try to distract him with a snowball, but the stuff is too powdery to pack well and I just make a cloud of white crystals that hang in the air around me when I try to throw it.  Waldo then bounds out in front of me, at first searching for what he thought he saw me throw, then, giving that up, looking around for the next object of entertainment.

There are a few other people that we meet on the trail, including some with dogs.  On passing those with their canine charges, I smile and say, “Doggy duty knows no bad weather!”  They smile and concur, both people and dogs obviously enjoying the outdoors as much as Waldo and I.  Most of our walk, though, Waldo and I are alone, just Mother Nature and us.

One thing about a snowstorm is that it removes almost all color.  It turns vistas from a Kodachrome moment into a more homogenized black and white Ansel Adams’ landscape.  But man, what nature can do in black and white!  Everything is softened, much of the fine texture is removed, leaving behind a blemish free smoothness that rolls on, in places as far as you can see.  Like an undisturbed mud puddle begs for a good splashy stomp, the unsullied smooth white fields and meadows cry out, plead with you, to please go thither and leave a swath of disordered whiteness, even a snow-angel or two.  Maybe leave a huge heart, or a peace symbol or whatever else your artistic inclination may engender.  But, alas, the fields we can see are all on private property and beyond our reach.

After a little more than a mile, Waldo stops and starts biting at his left rear paw.  I know what that means – he’s developing ice between his pads and toes.  That’s not a good sign.  If the snow is hardpack it won’t grow in his paws, but this powdery stuff, at these temperatures, can.  Chunks of ice jammed in his feet can cause frostbite.  If it’s bothering him enough to want to bite it out, his skin is getting cold enough that it can become necrotic if allowed to continue.  When he was a puppy, I could pick him up and carry him home, but he weighs about 55 pounds now.  I’ve tried putting him in booties in the past, but he doesn’t tolerate them and pulls them off.  Regretfully, I decide to turn around so he can warm up his toes, before bad things happen.

I’m surprised, but Waldo seems most agreeable to turning around.  But, then, I know that we won’t be home for long and he’ll be agitating me to go outside again.  That’s okay, I’m getting tired of fighting with the snow anyway.  We’ll just bite back at this winter landscape thing in smaller bits today.

It’ll still be there, waiting for us to return.


The thing about snow is that it turns into ice.


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