The Gifts of The Season

As I look outside, just after Christmas, I realize what a huge gift it is to have even a small amount of snow. Most of the state survived the brown Christmas (although some were grumpy, I've been told), while we are blessed with just enough to make it white outside my window. Six to seven inches of snow looks and feels like a lot when there is none everywhere else. Some folks have taken the skis out, and have gone on the Lonely Lake trail, or some of the other trails. While it isn't the best skiing, it is still skiing---it is being out there on those two boards, sliding and moving along. That is good.

Sledding, too, has been possible. Our hill doesn't require much snow, as it is nicely clear of rocks and roots. Addie actually started the sledding season a couple of weeks ago, pulling out her favorite Torpedo, and carving a run down the hill. More folks have been sledding since then, and now it is nicely packed, and lots of fun.

Saturday night, we went to Okontoe and had a sleigh ride, another gift of the season of winter. Just enough snow for the Belgian horses and sleigh, just enough cold weather to keep that snow from melting and crusting up, and more than enough stars for us to enjoy in the sky while we glided along. Songs and carols filled the night as our able drivers steered the horses along the lantern-lit trail. Afterwards, it was time for the wonderful hot chocolate that only the Patten family can make that good, served inside their warm, cozy log cabin. Rosy cheeks, steaming cocoa, and lots of laughs and chatter filled the room.

On Christmas Eve morning, a Sunday this year, Greg, Paul, Addie and I were driving in to church. Four miles from home, two deer ran across the trail in front of us. This is a very common sight now, as the deer seem to have spread out their territory. But another animal sighting just a bit further along was a new one for me. Two otters were beginning to make their way across the road, until we came along and interrupted them. The first one continued on its way, leaping and hopping, as they do, then wiggled its way up the hill on the other side. The second one was scared back a bit, and stayed put. I like to think that the two caught up to each other a few minutes after we passed. The only water in the area was from the two swamps on either side of the road. Loon Lake was the nearest "big water", so I surmised that the pair was on a holiday sojourn to visit someone.

Early on Christmas morning, Greg went out the back door to retrieve something from his truck. He was greeted by our neighborhood fox, who had come by for his own gift. We had left out some food destined for the compost pile, and the fox wasn't content to wait for it to get there. Instead, he was helping himself to it, right from the stainless steel bowl. This fox is quite tame, and he must have thought that we had put out a dish full of food just for him. Greg said that he looked like he was trying to take the whole bowl away with him to stash somewhere. Not wanting to lose our bowl, Greg brought it inside to loosen up the remaining frozen food to toss back out to the fox. Mr. (or Mrs.?) Fox patiently waited until he tossed the chunk out the door, happily scooped it up in its mouth and headed off into the woods.

Finally, a long awaited moment arrived-----the lake froze Christmas night, and we think that it may stay frozen this time. A few days ago, it was ice-covered in the morning, with what seemed to be a fragile and tentative covering. It held until the next morning, when the wind came up and tore it to pieces, opening up a large lead on the Canadian side, and clearing all of the ice at the west end of the lake. The temperatures were climbing and the wind was blowing, so no ice was forming. That night, though, the thermometer started to head in the right direction, the wind calmed, and the lake started to make those wonderful ice-making noises---groans, squeaks, and grunts. In the morning, we could see that the open water was again covered, and we are hopeful that it will stay that way, and make more ice. Greg ventured down near shore, and he thought that it looked to be about two inches. We'll listen for more sounds tonight, and if it continues to talk to us, it may mean that we could try some ice skating after more cold days and nights. We are always very cautious, however, when it comes to being out on the ice. We wait and wait and wait until we are satisfied that the ice is thick enough and safe enough.

The best gift this season? Celebrating Grandma Peggy's 94th birthday, a few days before Christmas. Grandma has been living in the Care Center in Grand Marais, for a little over a year now. It is a wonderful place to live, with many caring staff members, ongoing activities, and plenty of action. During the day, Grandma's favorite spot to be is in the main room, sitting in an easy chair next to the aviary. As she has all her life wherever she lived, Grandma enjoys watching the birds, and saying hello to all of the folks who pass by. We are all blessed to have Peggy.

We would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. May this new year bring good health and hope to all. Thank you for all that you do for us and for being a part of our lives.