The day before had been rain. Nothing but rain all the day long. Through the night I could hear the rain begin to freeze and the slishing sound of freezing rain filled my dreams. We woke up to a crystalline world with every branch and leaf coated with a thin layer of clear ice. Then set in the snow. In no time at all the grey glassine world was transformed to white. We spent the morning watching brilliant flakes blow off the roof in eddys and swirls. Then the call came, "No work tomorrow". Ah, Freedom! Let's go play!
So we bundled up with layer upon layer. Wool socks, long johns, turtlenecks, wool sweaters, scarves of all types, warm gloves, double up on the hats, good waterproof boots. We were off, with Crazy Creek chairs in hand.
Where to go? Do we go to the Sabbath spot or to the creek. The creek it is. Down the long hill we go with dogs skittering beside us. Cedar trees, weighed down with ice lay across the road along with shattered branches. Still, down, down we go. The spot by the creek is unavailable, the water is too high, and it's awfully windy. So up the side of the ridge we head. The ground under the snow and ice is not frozen so we grapple our way up the slope to the logging road. From this vantage we assess our usual spots. The water is too high there, that has too much exposure to the wind, I don't like the view there.
Ahhh. Almost at the rock bass hole is the perfect spot. Sheltered nicely by a small rise, close to the creek so we can hear the movement of the water, birds flitting all about, and a good view of the field. Nice. Lots of wood too. My sweet love had found some sticks along the way which were miraculously untouched by the icing of the previous night, so he set right to work. Scraping the ground bare and kneeling on his Crazy Creek he built a good base with the driest stuffs we could find. One match. Blowing and blowing to try to keep the small flames going he gets choked up with smoke. The rest of us are feverishly collecting more wood of all sizes.
Foiled by the wetness of the wood, he needs to start over. Who has any paper at all with them? How about some cheese wax? A few counter checks from the bank, shavings from the inside of a branch, so much smoke, the flames are rising and the scent of the cheese wax is strong. Now comes the constant feeding. Small twigs, leaves, larger branches. Are you sure that oak isn't too wet and rotten? Is it going well enough to relax yet? Finally, a two foot diameter, ten inch high bundle of dross from the power line cut is burning along merrily. We relax for a moment and watch the birds. Several times there is a flurry of activity as the fire is revived, but the coal bed is so good now that if we left for a few hours and came back we could regain a warming fire within a few minutes.
What's that? A robin close enough that we can see it's speckled eye ring, a chickadee on a high branch behind me, a yellow rumped warbler so close that I get to see the golden dot on the top of his head. Peace and joy out in the wild world. This is what we came here for.
Suddenly there is an almost imperceptible change in the light falling on the field across the creek. It's time. If we go now we can make it up the hill while it's still light. It seems so unfair. The fire is going so well and we had just put some fresh three inch diameter logs on. But if we stay any longer we know we will regret it. So, large wood gets lobbed into the creek to ensure that all traces of fire are erased from them. The bulk of the coal bed gets kicked into the creek as well. Snow gets kicked over the entire fire spot and trampled into it. No smoldering embers are left to potentially destroy the glorious woodland that brings us so much joy. And the race is on.
As the light fades we clamber back up the steep slopes of the ridge, crossing various strands of barbed wire as we go. The logging road is easier going and we can make good time there. Chilly, old and lame a dog as she is, tries a number of times to initiate hunts similar to the one that nearly killed her two years ago. (She was trapped in a hole under a tree for an overnight and much of the following day.) We succeed in keeping her on track and we find a not-so-steep path down from the logging road that has the added benefit of keeping Chilly from the creek where, in spite of the cold and her bum leg, she would gladly take a plunge hoping to find a stray crayfish.
We take to the long hill up to the house with more vigor than usual, the encroaching cold egging us on. We pause a moment and look up. The branches are still coated in ice and in the pink light of the setting sun they catch our breaths. We are sweating now. The silk scarf around my neck feels like it is on fire, but there is promise at the top of the hill. The trusty woodstove has a nice fire banked in it. As we approach the top of the hill, we are treated to a second sunset. We enter the house and peel off our wrappings as rapidly as possible to avoid complete meltdown. And what is this?
That's what I call a good reward for a game well played.