The full beauty of winter

Here in Hawley, winter is full upon us.

Snow has fallen and drifted, and receded and fallen again, but the ground has been covered for weeks now. The skis have come down from storage, and trails have been broken and drifted in a dozen times already. The cows are all tucked into the warm barn, sheltered from the wind, and snuggled into clean dry bedding. The half the herd expecting calves in February is drying up their milk to put energy into growing their babies, and with fewer animals in the parlor, we are only milking once a day.  The giant snow push and snow blower are mounted on tractors, ready for the call. The barn lights glow gold and soft at night as we do the evening chores.

As much as we love the summer here - that brilliant and airy season of waving grass and swooping birds - it is the winter that reveals the true nature of this ridgetop. The wind strips life down to it's essence - field, drift, cloud, sky.  The light is searchingly clear. The cold is purified and clean, sometimes brutally so. And while most work shifts inside this time of year, there are still chores that must happen outside every day. To work outside on those days when nature is exercising her fury is often electric in it's dangers, always humbling in it's honesty.  In some ways, winter leaves no space for humans here - to survive is to yield up your self - to become one with the wind, to be the weather itself. But just when you are feeling that all this purification, this raw cathartic truth is nearly too much,  there is the beauty. There are days of stillness and sparkling clarity. Sunlight on blowing snow, moon on fallen snow. The alchemy of wind and water glazes and illuminates every twig and needle in endlessly changing forms of crystal and flake and curve. And it is the fact that this beauty forms and unforms regardless of whether humans are here to have their breaths taken away that is both the redemption, and perhaps the most humbling revelation of all.

And so it is with these thoughts that we enter this holiday season, these celebrations of miracles and hope. We place candles in the windows, because it seems the ancient promise of guidance to warm sanctuary just might still be needed by some traveller. We all linger a little longer at the end of the workday, savoring warmth and the company of our companions and coworkers before venturing out into the dark. And then, we do go outside, again and again, because it is always beautiful here, whether we have the fortitude to witness it or not.

Blessings to you and your families in this holiday season,

Amy, for Paul, Cecilia, Sean, Craig, Hansen, Stella, Faye, and Phil, and all the girls who make the milk.