The wind gave a howl and deposited a big clump of snow dead center down my neck from the overhanging maple limb above me.
I cringed and shuddered, belatedly grabbing my hood and jerking it up over my hat. Of course, this deposited the snow built up in my hood down my neck to join the first.
Whew, that didn’t help at all.
My teeth began chattering as the shockingly cold snow froze my neck and icy rivulets trickled down my spine.
I growled at myself for being so foolish, shook and shrugged my shoulders to help warm the icy droplets. Stopping shoveling for a second I looked toward the west. The visibility was only about 50 yards; it was snowing so heavily and the street light illuminated a wild and confused circle of swirling and billowing snow. There was no doubt about it, winter was here.
Leaning on the shovel and hating the weather, a sudden flashback appeared magically in my mind. It was June, my wife and I had risen early and were on the water at the break of day.
As we paddled across the lake that morning, birds sang, swirling mists curled above the smooth waters and a feeling of peace, beauty and contentment filled you with the scene’s graceful beauty. You cast, your fishing lure sails out, landing with a plop in the water, its entrance spreading circles wider and wider, the entire world seemingly at peace. My wife, Jane, turned and smiled back at me; yes, it was a perfect morning to be in love, alive and fishing.
ANOTHER memory suddenly chased the first away and we were at camp in July.
We had just finished mowing the yard; the camp fire was burning brightly as we sat on the front porch, drinks in hand, waiting patiently for the fire to burn down to coals. The chicken was already in the grill and the barbeque sauce in a bowl. Two robins were busy hopping industriously across the yard eating the insect life the mowers had disturbed when we cut the grass. They appeared happy.
The yard looked great, our muscles were tired, but not overly so, and a satisfying feeling of contentment filled us for a job well done with the promise of a great dinner to follow.
You don’t have to say much at a time like this, it’s enough just to be in the moment and at peace.
Again the scene changed and I felt my arms and back burning as we paddled with all our strength against the rushing current pouring down the rapids. We were at a standstill, the canoe not moving an inch upstream despite our straining muscles. We hung suspended in the current, unable to progress. I turned the bow slightly to the right and we began angling across the current and now slowly moving upstream as well. When the water grew shallow I turned left and repeated the process. After 50 yards, the current slowed at the foot of the pool and the paddling became ever so much easier.
What a relief to cease struggling against the heartless, relentless current, relax the aching muscles and suddenly be free to paddle easily and smoothly up the now-quiet river. There were two nice pike waiting at the head of the hole for us, hanging in a weedy eddy, but we didn’t know it then; just paddling successfully up the rapids was triumph enough.
With a shrill cry of agitation, a mature bald eagle dived out of a large dead tree almost over our heads and flew upriver, disturbed by our presence. Straight away the massive bird flew, growing smaller and smaller until he curved to the right with the river and vanished from sight.
AGAIN THE scene changed to a blazing hot August afternoon.
It was too hot to work and as the sun began to drop toward evening we climbed into the car and bought the biggest, ice cold soda we could find, driving out to Willow Creek where we turned left onto the old Fire Road. The woods were far cooler than the sweltering city and as we drove across the winding dirt road the breeze from the open windows, the beauty of the forest around us and the sighting of game — deer, a hawk, woodchuck and busy birds — cheered us. Stopping where a small stream crossed the road we walked down the water. Here the enchanting smell of fern, moss, wet earth and leaves filled our senses with its perfume while we sat with our feet in the icy water.
The wind howled and blew a thick cloud of snow past me, the scene vanished from my mind and again the nasty cold and stormy night surrounded me. But the memories had kindled a warm and bright spot in my soul.
Somehow, I felt refreshed and invigorated now by the cold rather than oppressed by it. I shoveled with a will and happiness, a growing sense of accomplishment building inside as the sidewalk and driveway were cleared.
I finished and trudged to the house knowing a blast of wood heat would greet me when I opened the door and a warm dinner waited in the oven. I couldn’t help reflecting that the future leads us forward, but it’s the vintage of our past that sustains us.