29 October 2014
Late Autumn Meditation
Ice is starting to form on the river...
By and large, it is has been a rather mild autumn. I've caught myself going without a jacket more often than not. Although, part of me wonders if it is not in defiance of the season, and, the season to come, instead of the ambient air temperature. Every year, as it cools down, I find myself silently wondering if I have truly gotten used to living up here, that my body has adapted to climate as my mind has to the environment. Most often, I know the answer is yes, but that doesn't stop the questioning.
There are the omens of change in the air. Breath being visible at night and the early morning. The snow on the very high peaks is not melting away. Shadows grow longer. The sun ducks behind the ridge between three-thirty and four in the afternoon, giving one a slight chill at first. In another few days, the idiocy of Daylight Savings starts, and it'll get darker that much quicker. A few weeks after that, the sun will not rise over Pendleton's massif and those of us along Rue Maji will not get direct sunlight again until the end of January. In my mind, the beginning of winter is the day I notice we've entered the Long Dark.
The other day, we went up Grizzly Gulch. On the peak for which the trail is named, as well as along Torrey's, snow devils danced is the high alpine gales. Where we were, the breeze had a slight chill, but was gentle. I managed to get a better look at the bones of the avalanche that occurred sometime last winter. It was amazing and terrifying to figure out where the slab ran and the scale of destruction it caused.
"Snow can do that?" Sampai asked me the time I showed him the photographs from that fateful June walkabout.
"Um, yeh," I replied. "It's compacted water, and water is actually pretty fucking heavy."
True to fact, the thing that kills people in avalanches, besides suffocation, is blunt force trauma...
In another month to month and a half, we'll be snowshoeing. A place like Grizzly Gulch will be a place we only go so far, as to avoid those avalanche chutes. The rhythms of the seasons. Sabina and I have already booked a hut trip for her birthday snowshoe and I imagine kicking up some powder. The other day, a fellow proletariat offered me a pair of cross-country skis and was utterly shocked that I didn't telemark.
Here and now, it's late autumn, and a mild one at that. I know what's coming. I can feel it in the marrow of my twisted skeleton. That is not now. Now is a hike up a bit of Dry Gulch. Might need gaiters. The sky is that shade of blue, the sun is shining, there's little breeze, and the air is mild. What a time to get caught up in the moment.