February 2008, I and a group of like-minded individuals grabbed snowshoes, shovels, and trail mix and ventured north about 30 miles WNW of Grand Marias. We parked the vans, stopped at an outhouse, then strapped on those shoes.
A mile across a lake and around a wood, we chose locations close to shore to begin shoveling snow into large mounds [about 5-8 feet in circumference] very slowly to avoid sweating. Waiting 3 hours through the afternoon was the most difficult as it was cold yet sunny-a travesty when avoiding sweat!
To pack it down and settle the snow, we climbed atop the mounds and danced! Afterward, we dug out a small opening and carved out the entire quinzee with only sunlight through the snow walls to guide the depth to keep walls about 6 inches thick. It was there that we slept, wrapped in sleeping bags, spooning, and frozen. The frigidity was unfathomable. The stars had taken me at my knees. The forest had exposed my true self. The fear of failure was alluring. Is it a surprise to learn that I am not a ghost writing about my life experiences?
Yes, we all 24, survived. A mad dash to the cabin the next morning was silent but for dragging snowshoes as we restrained our bitter tongues. The relief and comfort of that fire. The cider. The sight of scarves hanging in the entry, were overwhelming. Warm and fatigued and regaining fluid memory, I felt a wail from deep within, urge its way to my mouth. Who can express such pain and joy but through tears?
This season, December 2010, I find a similar wail needs way of escape. The warmth of blankets of snow. The disappointment of hope deferred. The glowing love of a friend. The increasing frailty of a petrified society–how does one allow such joy and grief to mingle? These are the polar ends of my heart strings and their pull will one day find refuge in tears, and a wail so deep it could swallow me whole. Yet, in the end, it will be the wail that spares me. The wail that compels me forth to stand in the midst of confusion and ache, to conquer new ground and to trust in the victorious One.
No challenge is too great for those who put their hope in the One who conquered death.