The View from Mattie’s Pillow

Gray skies today. This morning, as the horses were eating their hay, snow began to fall in big flakes. The wind picked up–unusual for the Interior in winter–and the wind chimes on the deck began to rattle and ring. We’re hearing winter storm advisories on the radio, which means blowing snow at higher elevations–the domes and summits and ridges. Because we live in view of the highest mountain in North America, Denali, 170 miles away, none of the high points around Fairbanks are called mountains even though they would be mountains in other places, say Pennsylvania or Virginia. So we have Chena Ridge, where I live, or Murphy Dome, Ester Dome, Cleary Summit, Eagle Summit. Not mountains, but high enough to have their own micro weather patterns.

We’re more than half way through February, a bleak month in any temperate climate, but here, there’s an odd phenomenon where the returning light just begins to take effect–we have more energy and more daylight to do things in–but is counterbalanced by the persistence of winter. It was 27 below the other night, for example. The temperature dropped rapidly during the day, catching us unprepared. I had gone out to do some clicker work with Mattie and pretty soon had to go back in to warm my hands. The clicker is small and hard to click with gloves on, and I had reached the limit of cold in my fingers before they became painful. So I knew it was colder than 10 above, for at temperatures above that my hands can stay warm for a while from activity and from keeping the rest of me well wrapped. By today, it’s bounced back up above zero, but with wind and wind chill. So, in spite of the returning light, February is unreliable, and we stay in winter mode.

March is harder. There will be a few days that creep to near freezing (warm, by our standards). The light will be equal, day and night, and the sun bright on the snow. We gardeners gaze at our gardens; we can visualize the plants that will grow there in summer. Impatient, we will order seeds and starting soil and plant inside under lights or by a southern window. March is the month when we lose perspective. After Equinox, the days become longer by 7 minutes a day and we remember that flowers are blooming elsewhere. We don’t want to hear about it, really. We will still be sliding through stop signs and into ditches for another month. We will be plowing and shoveling snow and watching it slide off our roofs into mounds. And as the layers of snow melt, we will find all the gloves we thought we lost, or candy wrappers that fell from our cars at 40 below, or the spare change that fell. Not to mention dog poop and horse manure that got snowed over before we got out to clean it up. March is when we find out who the real survivors are by reading the divorce statistics in the newspaper.

The wind chime jingles again. The snow is marshmallow white; the corral looks pristine. Mattie and Sam stand in their shed, out of the wind, nipping at each other’s muzzles over the board wall that separates them. What am I thinking of? Flowers? Carrots? It’s still February.

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2 Responses to “The View from Mattie’s Pillow”

  1. Wendy Says:

    Wonderful post! Here in Vermont, we’re a little warmer, but still covered in snow for the most part…and we won’t be out of the woods until we’re out of the woods. My seed packets are laid out on the counter, and there’s still two-three feet of snow on my garden…sad stalks sticking up through it where we hastily clipped the tops of the amaranth before we lost them to the birds and the wind. Thanks for the post and putting it into perspective.

  2. mattiespillow Says:

    Thanks, Wendy. They just canceled the winter storm advisory–but the roads are slick. That’s February for you!

    I love your photo on a white horse. Did you see the photo of Sam under his “post”?

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