Brrr!

     When it’s 10 below zero in the morning and the high temperature in the afternoon is 11, what exactly does the weatherman mean when he says a cold front is approaching?
     I am not accustomed to this.
     Jane says winter is good for us because it helps us appreciate summer. That may be so, but if it is, I am willing to go through life without giving summer all the appreciation it deserves.
     I don’t think summer will mind if the temperature rises to, say, 25 degrees. How could summer possibly mind? Summer is down in Chile, ripening the grapes.
     My large dog Rufus, however, likes the cold, and when he looks at me with his brown, pleading eyes, I have to bundle up like a big fat tamale and take him for a walk.
     It’s been so cold for so long that the snowmobile trails are frozen, so I took Rufus up the trail by our house. People in Vermont leave their gates open in the winter so snowmobilers can get around. Even farmers do it. If someone gets upset at the snowmobilers, they might post a sign that says, “Please Stay on Trail.”
     Vermonters are sensible folks. I can’t imagine people in California leaving their gates open for anything. In fact, for the entire decade I lived there, movie people were suing virtually everyone who tried to cross their private land to get to a public beach.
     These movie people are called, technically, dicks. I’m sure we have some in Vermont, but they don’t sue people to prove it. We have other ways of settling disputes here. A dry comment, perhaps, a few years down the road.
     Rufus was a lot more excited about walking up the snowmobile trail than I was. Until we got over the first hill. We walked into a glittering snowfield with nothing in it but animal tracks, and forest on every side.
     There were deer tracks, rabbit tracks, pheasant and coyote tracks, and the tracks of some animal whose mother never told it not to scuff his feet. A big fat pheasant whooshed out of a tree and disappeared into the forest.
     Rufus stuck his nose into the animal tracks. He stabbed it in there again and again, then lifted his muzzle and said in Dog, “How interesting! I must make a note of it.”
     Then he found coyote tracks. I know it was a coyote because Rufus loves every animal on Earth except coyotes. Coyotes piss him off. Rufus got furious at those footprints. He raised his head and looked around for it and bounced this way and that. Rufus wanted to find that coyote and sit him down for a little talk.
     At the far end of the snowfield was a half-frozen brook. Each boulder had extruded an irregular skirt of serrated ice. Amoebalike air pockets in the water squooshed under the ice, changing its clarity from darkness to light and back. Over the bridge the trail climbed steeply and we re-entered the bluish light of the forest.
     Not a sound but the brook. Not a soul. Just the musical gurgle of water and the winter light slanting through the big white pines and birches, maples and sycamores. Rufus kept poking his nose into the snow, then he’d scratch out a deeper hole and snoofle it again and look up, terrifically excited. What he found there was as far beyond my comprehension as “King Lear” is Rufus’. I know, because I got down on my knees and tried it. I couldn’t smell a damn thing.
     That was yesterday. Today we did it again. It was 10 degrees colder, and the cold front hasn’t got here yet. Today I don’t feel like telling you anything poetic and contemplative about our walk. Today it was just cold. Cold enough to make my face hurt.
     I hear it makes you appreciate the summer. That’s probably true. I’m appreciating summer right now, and it’s 9,000 miles away.

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