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Of thankfuls and medicinal weather

2009 November 28

Our lovely Thanksgiving started with a morning hike in the brushy hills behind our house. At 10:00 am it’s still only 40 degrees out, but this Southwestern sun is something magical. It seems the clouds only bother rolling in if there’s some rain or snow to drop, which because sun is the staple flavor here, is uncommon enough to pulse happily through the community like a twitter message. In fact, if you call the Colorado Avalanche Hotline, those meteorologists, those scientists are likely to say “Great news, we’ve got a low pressure trough coming across the Great Basin and headed for the San Juan Mountains. Cross your fingers – areas above 9000 feet are likely to receive 18-20 inches.” I love how snow is always good news here.

And we love the snow, the event of it. How it turns the common neighborhood walk into something akin to a rare bird sighting, everyone oohing and ahhing over snowflakes sticking like glitter glue to our brown lawn. The kids are still talking about the raccoon and ground squirrel tracks Dan discovered in our hen house after the last storm, like stories pressed into the snow.

But that high altitude sun, it’s medicinal; Viagra for the spirit. The sun at 6512 feet is like napping kids, it makes winter fun. I get a little manic about those last few hours of daylight. Around 3pm I start feeling like a train is lumbering out of the station with my whole life on it, leaving nothing but acres of cold, dark night. Maybe it’s because the kids are just rising from their naps and getting them from eye-rubbing clinginess to winter-suited and outside requires the sort of resolve and unflagging cheer that brings losing sports teams back from the brink. And also, once we do forge outside in the late afternoon, the remaining sun is cut with such long, penetrating shadows, exposed skin quickly chills and reddens like a beet left in the freezer.

All that is to say that on Thanksgiving Day, we took our sun dose early, picking our way up the steep trail while Rose chewed wild, dried serviceberries like gum and Col spied many jaguarondi tracks that looked suspiciously like dog tracks. We found an open, shadeless patch of earth and sat down to soak up the quiet beauty of the pinyon pine, the Thanksgiving meal for black bears, squirrels and pinyon jays.

Col got right down to trap building, which occupies much of his current time. He’s mostly been aiming for skunks and rabbits, but he did catch our neighbor Sage recently. Rose ambled around under the pretense of looking for seeds but quickly popped up by Col’s side to dismantle his work. “Rosie’s trying to help but she’s not being helpful,” Col called to us, which was mostly true.

A Rabbit trap, as if it wasn't obvious.

An earlier, more primitive trap

Dan flopped onto the dry, clumpy grass and I listened to the sounds of my children and pondered being thankful, wondering if I could sustain gratitude for this very moment with no cheating. It wouldn’t count to be filled with gratitude only when our day has a certain buoyancy, when the kids are laughing and sharing well and I’ve had enough sleep. Could I remain thankful even when guiding stiff, reluctant little fingers into mittens? What about at 3pm when the sun had swept through the floor of our valley and the daylight train was chugging out of the station?

Here we were right now, so healthy and lucky, lounging and playing under the winter sun, the four of us together by some ordinary miracle, each of us sculpting, like clay, the shape of this family; the lumpy, wild, clingy, imperfect, suchness of us.

And so I practiced all day, while Col was not listening to our words and Rose was collapsing in a teary puddle: I am thankful for this, for this moment, for these children. Even now, I am thankful.

These children!

Later, with elk and deer roasts out of the oven, their insides blushing pink and outsides brown and garlic-rubbed, stuffing peeking out of an enormous cooked pumpkin, local fruit sauce a magenta swirl of backyard apples and Hermosa cherries, bourbon sweet potatoes and a salad as gorgeous and colorful as Huichol Indian art, we were ready. Our table seemed perfectly balanced with a newborn, a grandmother, a stranger, friends we’ve known from before Dan and I spoke our wedding vows, and others who’ve only known us as parents.

We shared our thankfuls around the room and everyone had so much to say.

After dinner we took a neighborhood walk, the three older children leading the way with flashlights. When we turned back towards home we saw another group strolling through the dark.

“Who’s that?” Col asked.

“I don’t think we know them.” I answered.

“Is that us?” Rosie asked.

By some ordinary miracle it’s not.

But Rose. Oh sweet, confused baby girl, I am so thankful for you. And you, and you, and you too. And you, for reading this blog.


13 Responses leave one →
  1. ike permalink
    November 28, 2009

    Wonderful descriptions of the winter season and a great reminder to remember to do our thankfuls.

  2. November 28, 2009

    Hey! Thanks for stopping by my blog! We used to live in Durango for about 6 years and left about 4 years ago. We long to get back and may just do that here pretty soon! So nice to “meet” you!

  3. Ellen permalink
    November 29, 2009

    And many of us are thankful for the blog…always a ray of sunlight and cheer in any season.

  4. November 30, 2009

    Hmmm, sure could use some of that medicinal viagra here in Portland!! Great piece, I was moved by the recognition of complete representation at your table… beautiful.

  5. Kathy Smith permalink
    November 30, 2009

    Hi Rachel, Lovely as usual and something I am thankful for. We had Thanksgiving with Glenn, Kristi and the girls….complete with a ride on the Polar Express. Hope we will see you again on some future visit.

  6. November 30, 2009

    Sounds like you had a super thanksgiving Rachel! Your kids are precious…..I like the sweet stories you tell of them!
    And I just realized that I never got back to you about potatoes……if you still need some, I will be at the Christmas market…..or just come out to the farm.
    love, sara

  7. December 1, 2009

    What a lovely description of the celebration of snow.

  8. December 2, 2009

    Snow already? Wow, we haven’t had any yet, but the forecast had snow for today earlier in the week. Now the forecast just calls for overcast skies and 40F. Tomorrow, rain. Rain I can handle…..that snow stuff and that cold weather….urgh!

    Read another post about your kids getting to go on The Polar Express. How Cool!! I’d love to do that with my kids!

  9. Caraway permalink
    December 2, 2009

    I love this article, Rachel! The descriptions of Durango’s winter and its wildlife bring back potent images, smells and memories. And you 4 as a family are so good at savoring life and living it to its fullest. I’m thankful for this blog, so I can keep up with you guys from afar!

  10. krystal v permalink
    December 3, 2009

    love it.
    thank you.

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