There's a small, warm set of arms hugging my neck, blurry shades of grey then lavender, rose, pale orange coming up over Mt Equinox outside the window. Stretches, rolls, morning greetings, and we're up for another day.
Wool sweaters pulled on, yogurt and cereal served, kettle set to boil, time to make a fire. Not quite enough kindling and bark a little damp, a slow hour later I'm throwing up my hands at the stove. The fire will have to wait for my coffee.
I stir in a couple big spoonfuls of milk from the last 1/4 of a half gallon jar - which lacks all the cream and joy of the first 1/4 - and I head down the stairs below the kitchen floor for kindling and a piece of wood that signals to me in some tacit way it'll come through. Henry is getting out a board game after two or three more variations on breakfast, and I sit down next to the stove to make us warm once and for all.
Two matches and a bigger pile of sticks and bark than likely anyone ever needed to start a fire, and I can finally walk away from the hearth. A game of collecting loops of smoke to make our space rockets launch, and it's time to head back down the kitchen floor stairs.
I put on an extra sweater, scarf, and the household's wooliest hat and make my way down to the basement workshop, Henry content to stay warm by the fire with an audiobook and the dog curled up beside him. It's cold down there this time of year, but I'm so spent on fire building I don't bother to light the big, hulking, rusty barrel of a woodstove next to my press.
I mix a little pile of ink, lay it on the steel plate, and the cold press creaks to life. 100 or so pulls, at least 20 ways of asking myself if it's worth it, and 45 minutes pass and I'm wiping up the last of the mineral spirits and bringing 100 freshly letterpress-ed cards and 10 very cold fingers back upstairs to join my little one in warmth.
The rest of the morning stretches on in its usual way, there's another snack, another game. Some coloring and chatting, building a marble run, and making lists. Lunch comes and goes, and it's the hour we've looked forward to all day. We're off on a longer-than-usual walk to meet our neighbors and their herd of goats.
We're bundled up again, a batch of kefir banana muffins wrapped in fabric being carried by a sweet bemittened hand. As we walk, Henry notices all the things we haven't passed before and we stop to admire trees covered in lichen, particularly mossy stones, a field full of milkweed, and the way the gravel changes at the bottom of the road (he did most of the admiring of the gravel). Two quick turns and we've arrived for tea, cheese, and a warm chat with the neighbors.
We visit the goats, enjoy ourselves very much, and hatch a plan to take a shortcut home through the woods. The Pruddy Brook is the name of the stream that runs down the mountain, through our backyard, and parallel to our road before it meets the Green River farther down in the valley. It has just rained for a couple of days, and the forest is covered with a thick layer of wet leaves. The Pruddy is loud and fast, and Brad points out a waterfall I dog-ear for the next hike. We walk on all together, looking for a quiet place to cross the water and climb up to the road. We don't spot one, but we're hopeful, and Brad and his dogs part ways with us and turn back to head home. Henry and I and a beautiful, generous wedge of gifted aged goat cheese make our way further along the Pruddy as it starts to near twilight. It's a hard walk. Harder than Henry's probably ever taken, without a trail, over slippery logs and stones, the slightly disorienting roar of the creek alongside us. We never do find a place to cross, but I know if we keep straight along the brook we'll reach a hill that'll bring us up and over to the road not far from our house. That hill, as it happens, is steeper than it looks from the road, covered in thorny berry brambles (the same ones we were so happy to discover when the days were long and the berries were ripe!) and a beast to climb. Alternating between pushing Henry up (careful sweetie, I've got you, you won't fall!) and tossing the wedge of cheese upwards five feet at a time (perfect, delicious, please don't fall!) so I can clamor up myself, we get there.
Our feet hit the road as it starts to get dark, and we stop to hug and laud our big adventure with home in sight. I let go of a big, huge sigh of relief, never having been lost or truly worried, but just stressed enough by the journey to beat the dark that I'm very, awfully grateful to see the warm lights of our house through the trees.
Lo, the fire is out.
Remembering the morning's work, I make my way unbegrudgingly down the kitchen stairs one last time for an armful of kindling and light the stove.
Dad came home with dinner and stories about a Christmas parade he passed on his way. There's another round of rocket game before bedtime, and two long chapters of The Wind in the Willows. We light a candle and Henry asks for a story about goats before he sleeps.
Downstairs by the fire again, I tell Stu about our adventure, the place down the road where I found out we can get good butter from, and how I might get a chance to learn to milk the goats come spring. We each have a bite of cheese before bed.
I go to sleep tired, really tired. Still, and without disappointment, I'm up before dawn, quietly trying to untangle myself from soft little arms, watching the colors rise over the mountain, and sleepily reveling in the opportunity to build a good fire on the first try this morning, and maybe start on that Christmas sweater for Henry with my feet warming alongside it.