We haven't left our mountain in a week. Long days of work for dad mean long days at home for us, and this week the earth treated us to a fine few days of balm and thaw.
There was still snow on the ground on Monday; Tuesday morning the sun crept out and began the work of melting it all away. We set out on our morning walk, baskets in hand, just wool sweaters and no coats at all to keep us warm. We walk every day to a spot Henry calls his Hunting Grounds. It's a nice mossy hill just off the dirt road we live on, marked by a big oak tree and a stretch of crumbling, centuries-old stone wall. About halfway down, we were ambling, talking, crunching through snow, remarking on the pleasant weather, listening to the rushing brook, when the dog stopped in her tracks and approached the embankment next to our path. We looked up and were met by a pack of four coyote, looking right at us not more than 15 feet from our noses. Rosie let out a big bark and they took a step back, clearly disinterested in having it out over this particular patch of woods, but with such an aloof and slow retreat that I wasn't entirely sure they were going to leave. Henry and I joined in the barking and watched in a kind of half-frightened awe as they trotted away. They were really more beautiful than I thought they'd look so close up, though I'm not eager to come face to face again without our sleeps-all-day-but-remains-valiant guard dog.
When went on, not wanting to miss a chance to enjoy such a warm morning in the wood. We spent a while spotting mushrooms, talking about coyotes, and gathering lichen for dyeing from fallen logs. We saw a tiny mole scurry out of a hole under a log and we followed her to her next destination, darting in and out of two or three other holes while she went. We walked home carrying with us a sense of the power of our living, breathing forest, grateful for such an adventurous morning stroll.
Wednesday, another warm sort of day, certainly too warm for February in Vermont. We gathered some green ferns we found by the brook and put them in a jar inside, a beacon of the spring that seemed to be coming fast and sure.
Thursday we walked to the pond to see how the ice was melting. Henry brought a stick he's been using for all manner of important things - poking holes in the ground, smacking thawed, mushy apples under the trees - and he discovered that if he used it to push aside the formerly-frozen leaves from their places in the ice, they left a pristine and beautiful impression. We moved all the leaves we could reach and marveled at the poetry.
That night we came home, ate dinner just us two, and he asked if I would like to dance with him.
Not every day is so downright wonderful, but there's no better word for that day.
Before our bedtime song and last goodnights, a candle is lit and I tell a story. We read books before candle time, but the last story of the night is always invented, usually from something we did that day, always something about the season with a little magic thrown in. Lately all of our stories take place in a land he calls Mossworld, where the fierce animals are still fierce, but never eat their friends. Most recently, I've been telling variations on a particular story idea he likes very much: that a certain animal sees a boy and his mama or dad doing something outside during the day, and wants to try it themselves at night when the people have gone to bed. There were foxes who watched the boy ice skate, then spent hours skating on their paws in the moonlight. Deer who learned what snowmen are and made snowdeer all over the forest. Coyotes who loved to bake and made muffins for all of the creatures of the forest. That night I told a story about the leaf impressions. That there was a little mole watching from the reeds as the boy moved the leaves from their spots on the ice. When the boy went to bed, the mole went out onto the ice and moved all the rest of the leaves across the pond, as she was light enough to scurry across the not-so-sturdy ice the boy couldn't walk out on. She thought to call all her friends out to see these joyful prints, but instead decided to keep it just for herself. A magical little secret.
Come Friday, the thaw was over. We woke up to snow falling, a blustery cold day compared with those we'd had. We walked up to the pond to see if the leaf impressions were still there. We saw they had filled with snow, only adding to the beauty of what we'd seen the day before. Not just that, but when we looked out between the dock and the land's edge, there was one trail of little paw tracks in the snow. Bigger than a mole's to be sure, but magical to us to see and share.
This week I'll dye a play silk and some wool with the lichen we gathered. Henry will have a special reminder of this sweet warm mid-winter week, and the wool we'll use for loom kits, a bit of our forest for other children to weave into their handwork.
Nothing but gratitude these days for the living, thriving, wondrous place we get to call home and share with one another.