Friday, January 22, 2016

When the falling snow blinkers your vision . . .

down to the 2 inch slot between the visor of your hood and the zipped up neck of your parka, you see the world in odd rectangular bits. And you notice things you might not have noticed otherwise.

This first snowy morning walk with the dogs shows me that, the same as every previous year, the amazing triple coat Ladybug sports is capable of carrying a full half inch of snow without showing the slightest inclination to melt. The insulating properties of this coat are legendary. She’d be a great Alaskan sled dog.  As long as the temperature never went above -20.  And, of course, if she could be persuaded to run without food dangling in front of her nose.

Chance’s short  hair and high metabolism used to melt snow on contact. Now he sports a 4 inch white band from his tail up along his back, evidence he’s either grown a thicker section of fur coat this winter, or  added another subcutaneous layer across the hips.

It happens as we age.

No one’s trodden the sidewalk along our usual route from my house to the park before us. Or, if they have,  fast and furious snow has wiped any indication away. Before us lies a clean slate.

New snow, but the same dogs, a year older than the last time we scuffled our names in fresh powder.
Chance’s signature looks much the same, but Bug’s pawprints are slurred. Deep straggles link her front and back prints, showing me how the dragging of her hind legs has worsened. Arthritis calcifies her hips and its progression is slow and steady enough that I can convince myself, most days, that she is no worse than she has been. Until a late and heavy snow begs to differ.

This first snow, coming as late as it does this year, is trying to turn me maudlin. The shuffling of an old dog, a bright red parka from Antarctica, bucket list trip now two years in the past, even this snowy walk itself, along a city street instead of a wooded path –
new snow should signal fresh new beginnings, not provide constant reminders of how quickly the past falls behind us. But perhaps not this morning.

Tuesday I stood in line at Kroger’s behind a woman buying two red plastic snow discs. I bought two identical discs at a hardware store on a small town main street in Vermont to slide down the hills of Johnson State College with my new friend S.K. He had just found out he was HIV+. It was pretty much a death sentence.  This was 1996. 

That was the last time I went sledding, at least intentionally. I don't know about S.K. I could ask him. We've stayed friends. Advances in medicine have allowed him to live a long and amazingly active life, full of travel, adventure, and now even grandchildren.

It’s barely 3 weeks into 2016 as I write this.  New year, new snow. Old dogs and older friends, both a little whiter of hair than last year.

But always the chance for new trails, a new signature in the snow, even if the writing implements, (both mine and Bug's) are wearing down a little.

Happy first snow. Happy new year.