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Winter Peace

Tina Hartell

Well winter showed up, finally, as we all knew it would. The El Nino-induced extended stick season (the season after the leaves have dropped but before the snow arrives) ended on December 27th with 3" of snow. It was warm up to then, including a sweatshirt-only, Christmas-day hike up Styles Peak in Peru, VT. The sweatshirt being the only orienting indicator of day.

But people around here are worried about the lack of snow, and when you live in an area with four ski mountains and countless people making their living off the industry including those involved with restaurants, hotels, retail, and snow plowing, it's ok to be worried. Although if you've been following the El Nino year science, it's not really a surprise. 

An interesting piece from Scientific American that explains how this year is different from other El Nino years

Personally, Bobo and I are quietly enjoying this mild winter especially after two consecutive whopper winters that even drove the most hardened Vermonters to cry mercy. A whole extra month to split and stack another year's wood, fertilize the garden beds, and cruise the sugarbush fixing lines? Yes please!  A whole extra month of feet in anything but boots, of snow gear in the closets, of not having to use mental space to know (at all times) where the kids hats, mittens, and winter socks are? Oh yeah. And time to finish great projects like this, complete with drawbridge and reinforced birch beams.

Not surprisingly, every single farmer I spoke with during December smiled shyly, and echoed the sentiment. 

And some industrious sugar makers around the state, used our "spring-like" December to make syrup! The conditions were perfect: days in the 50s, nights in the 20s. What a run!

People ask me all the time what the warm El Nino winter has in store for the sugaring season. We can't predict, but the thought of a good run in late February and maybe, even, doing some boiling in March, has me ready to get out and tap. 

So Happy 2016 from all of us! It's good to be here, in this year, despite it all. I went for a walk with the littles today, skirting the edge of an inhabited beaver pond, and walking swiftly on top of the three inches of hard-packed snow. We built a fire, roasted marshmallow, slid down the ice on the frozen beaver dam, built a tipi, and saw the tracks of snowshoe hare, beaver, moose, and coyote. It's afternoons like this when I breathe in Wendell Berry's "The Peace of Wild Things" and feel hope. 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Peace be to you in 2016.