Before I moved to Vermont I did not know that it could be too cold to snow. Sure it makes sense, but it was not something I ever thought about. Here the principle is frequently on display. 10 degrees and higher snow…lower and you just get icy sunshine. Somehow the snow seems to make everything feel warmer. People in Florida might not get that. But up here, snow amplifies the light, adds a sparkly shine and reminds you comfortingly that it is at least warm enough for snow.
Winter has come which simplifies everything. The essentials of life are heat, (quiet heat is nice, but in an old 1838 farmhouse not essential so long as it is warm), food, shelter, and plumbing. The rest is just for show. The life that you tell your mother about on the phone or talk about at all those business lunches is mostly fiction. Real life is the reassuring sound of the boiler, which should be replaced, but the oil tank is underground which is illegal now, and so the whole thing would turn into a complete renovation and wind up costing about as much as a couple of new cars. Real life is the smell of a hearty Guinness stew that will keep everyone feeling warm and full through the night.
Today we have a winter afternoon of quiet gray light with snow falling on and off. The flakes blow through the branches leaving behind a shiny trail. There is a lovely quiet. The fires are burning and the light from our windows casts a sweet glow on the picket fence which is just another white in a landscape highlighted only by the skeletons of the trees. The chicken house shines with the weird red heat-lamp light that we have come to think of as the Bethlehem light…seen from afar, always burning, ever warm. The boiler came on with a racket, but just the same it came on. Travel has been suspended. And the stew is simmering. Christmas will be here pretty soon. Plenty of snowboarding and sledding await. But for now, we are safe and warm and ready for this winter.