I never really cared too much for winter on the east coast. The snow tends to be slushy and dirty, filled with grime from traffic, that can linger for weeks after a storm creating a soggy and depressive atmosphere. The clouds, too, linger around and whole months can go by in a dull, overcast, grey. But this doesn’t mean I don’t like winter. I have vivid memories of a family trip we took to Lake Tahoe when I was boy back in the late 70’s. As we were passing through the mountains at night to reach our destination, thick flakes of snow began to fall, rushing at the windshield in a mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic, pattern and filling my heart with delight. The next morning I woke up to an absolute paradise of a winter wonderland: quaint log cabins with heavy white roofs lined with icicles, dark green pines sagging low with snow, the mountains more majestic than ever, and of course, the infinite lake stretching into a misty abyss, all illuminated by the morning sun. It all impressed a sense of wonder into my heart that has never left me to this day. Winter can be stunningly beautiful, and so it is out here in Wyoming.
I had been a little intimidated about the onset of winter out here, however. For one, I’ve been scrambling to shore up my new house to ready for the season. This house had all kinds of problems and would have been a damp and frigid pit of illness all winter had I not taken urgent measures. But now, after fixing a leaky roof, leaky propane, and rotten siding, as well as replacing a rusted out wood stove and stuffing a lot of gaps with insulation, my home is actually quite cozy and hospitable. It feels good in here, especially looking out the window at an endless sea of white framed by speckled mountains.
I was also a little worried about maybe getting a bit lonely and feeling isolated, since I did only move here a few months ago and don’t have a lot of friends yet. But truth be told, although I’ve been alone for the past few years, I haven’t felt a single pang of loneliness in over a year and a half. I think it’s more than simply growing used to solitude; I feel I’m growing closer to God. I feel a conscious presence everywhere around me and in my heart. I feel a new sense of hope and purpose in life emerging from the ashes of yesterdays dreams. I don’t feel isolated from anything, but rather intimate with everything. I think I’ll be quite content just diving deep into music recording projects this winter, puncuated by frequent outdoor escapes to snowshoe through the mountains, cross country ski across a frozen resevoir, or ride powder at the nearby resort.
But this is a blog about horses. We got our first winter storm out here just a few days ago. We may have gotten eight inches or so, but I discovered that the big snow drifts out here can quickly turn a few harmless inches into several deep feet of heavy snow. I was worried about the horses on my land. Their water was frozen and so was the hose to fill the tank. The horses themselves were standing out in pasture with their backs to the heavy winds that were scattering snow and frost everywhere. I messaged JW to ask if we should be concerned. He wasn’t worried for them at all. He knew the storm was passing and the temps would come back up, and he knew the horses would eat snow to sate their thirst when their trough was frozen. I still felt a little sorry for the horses and decided to bundle up and brave the snow to feed them some apples and keep them company. They were excited for the apples and glad to see me, but no more than usual. They seemed completely content, business as usual, as if they didn’t even notice the weather. The only difference I noticed at all was that the lower half of their snouts were dark-stained with moisture from grazing through the snow.
The next day the sun came out although the snow remained on the ground and the temperatures low. Again I went out to greet them and enjoy their company. They were perfectly happy in the weather conditions, very lucid and bright in their vibrations. I felt lifted up by just being around them. They helped me to feel the vitality of the moment in fearless contentment. They were not daunted by the cold, nor anxious about the winter. They were alive in the present, thriving, confident. They were illuminated by the sun, supported by the earth, groomed by the wind, and sated on snow. In that moment I felt a sense of possibility as wide as the endless prairie.
After witnessing the beauty of a snow-draped Wyoming and the fearless fortitude of four, fine, horses, all my anxieties facing the winter have vanished. I don’t see the months ahead as any type of descent into less favorable conditions. I see a sun ascending over the white-capped mountains, its radiance accentuated by the crisp winter air. I see a woodstove in my basement, heating the floor boards and keeping the whole house warm. There is a fire kindled in my heart that warms my whole being in the same manner. I will tend to it, and not let it go out again.