Above Tree Line: March


We walked into another world today — the alpine zone on the Franconia Ridge.  Waking to a cloudy day that didn’t have a promising forecast, we kept moving with our plan to meet Ellen and hike today, knowing this was our last free day to get above tree line in March.  As we drove up 93 towards the mountains, we could see the white peaks of Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Liberty gleaming in spots of sunshine, clouds breaking open to blue sky above us.

The sun was shining through the freshly snow showered trees as we started out on the Falling Waters Trail.  But by the time we got to the falling water that gives the trail its name, the clouds had moved back in and soon after that it started snowing.  It snowed the rest of the hike.


The trail was well packed under the few inches of new powder, so we had no trouble following the worn depression in the snow.  The only trouble was when we accidentally stepped even inches off the track — posthole, a leg lost up to the crotch in snow.

The Falling Waters Trail is a steep climb up the west side of the ridge, but it was stunningly beautiful.  Snow and ice on the river, snow on branches, snow on spruce, snow on our hats and our backs.  Snow so deep ten foot trees looked four feet tall, and a sign that in summer is at head height was at my knees.

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We kept trudging up and up and finally broke out into the alpine zone, above the trees, 3,000 feet above where we started.  The view was mostly snow and cloud, with one ridge rising out of the fogginess to our south.  Then we turned around and slid, slipped and glided down, another month’s above tree line intention done.


Spring Skiing


Spring began at 7:02 this morning, just as it started to snow again.  Scattered flakes thickened, picked up speed and blew past the windows, accenting the black and white world outside.  The flurry only lasted a few minutes, but it added to the 3″ of powder we got last night, on top of the 10″ we got yesterday.

Today is the Vernal Equinox, when daylight and darkness are equal.  Now we slip over into each day being a bit longer than each night, a reason for celebration beyond the treat of having another day of skiing.  I was sure an afternoon ski on wet snow last week was my last, because I knew it was going to rain the next day.  I’m happy to have been wrong.

David and I finished our coffee and headed out to the trail, as we did yesterday.  Thankfully a neighbor was out on his snowmobile last night, so we had the delight of skiing through a few inches of powder on top of a packed trail, rather than having to make our own track which is what we did yesterday.  “I love how storms like this show the horizontal in the woods,” David said and I agreed, taking in the snow draped limbs surrounding us.

A few weeks ago I ran into a friend at the grocery store, and he heard the hesitation in my “Okay,” when he asked me how I was.  When he asked what was wrong, I listed my latest set of worries and troubles.

“Well you never get 100%,” he said.  “So I try to concentrate on the 65 or 75% I do get.”

Today marks 50% daylight, 50% darkness.  And my attention to gratitude for the 75%.

March Flowers

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Any blossom in March is a blessing.  The pink geranium and oxalis plants have been with me for five years now; out on the porch each summer, back inside to winter over and send out flowers as a counter to the monochrome tones of winter.

But already there’s color in the hillsides of hardwoods, the faint blush of the buds just beginning to let go, responding to the lengthening light.  Here’s a  poem from year’s ago, that wonders about that color and what we see of light and dark.


What if you failed to notice
low sun on the south trunk of the maple,
its shadow side already drifting

to dark, the horizon ready to assume
the indigo hue of the hillsides
of hardwood, winter tight buds?

We’re only given one run
at the sequence of consequence
that stems from noticing or not,

from being in the woods past dusk,
watching the sky grow grey,
laced by black maples.

Generations of Jewelry

IMG_1244There was a package in the mail on Saturday, with the return address of my Aunt Muriel, and big $2 stamps plastered on the front.  Aunt Muriel is a writer, and for years we’ve exchanged news of our writing when we exchange holiday cards.  She was delighted when The Truth About Death was published, and I cheered for her when she had stories selected in local writing competitions and published in local papers.  It’s been a relationship of letters that I’ve valued, even though I haven’t seen her for 30 years or more.  I didn’t know what to expect in the package, since it’s past the usual holiday card exchange time frame.

Inside I found an ancient looking jewelry box, and a card.  The card read, “I have enjoyed keeping in touch with you and reading and empathizing with your work.  I am getting near the end of my life, and I have been going through and deciding what to do with different things and ‘treasures.’  I came across this piece that was made from Grandma McKinlay’s necklaces and I thought you might like to have it.  I hope having it will please you.”  I opened the box, which had been carefully taped shut, to find a necklace of shell beads.

Delighted with the gift, I brought the box and card to show Alison the next day, when we met to go skiing.  “Just look how old this box is.  What, maybe 50 years old?”

“Wait, I have a box just like that,” Alison said and went upstairs, coming back with a box that, though a big larger, was indeed very like the box Aunt Muriel sent me.  Alison opened the box to a pink and silver pin.

“My Aunt Jean gave me this at the end of her life,” Alison said.  “It’s a pin my mother gave her, and that she thought I’d like to have.”  Alison’s mother died when she was a child, and her Aunt Jean knew it would mean a lot to Alison to have something from her mother.  “There’s even a card,” Alison said, pulling out the small card behind the pin.  “My mother gave this to Aunt Jean for a birthday, and told her it would look good with her black and white dress.”

The fact that Alison and I will most likely never wear the jewelry our elderly aunts gave us doesn’t matter.  We both have “treasures” that we may pass along some day ourselves.