Fire & Ice

A few inches of loose snow cover the snow all around our house. Beneath this lies rock-hard ice. Maybe someday I’ll live again in a world of shoveled sidewalks, but for now, our footing changes all through the winter and even well into the spring, when mud begins its 10,000 variations. I carried out this morning’s ashes and made a trail to that essential woodpile. A gray dusting of ashes covered a bucket of gleaming coals that hissed, burning down through the ice and snow.

Fire and ice. Why I love Vermont could fill many pages, or simply these three words. The contents of my hearth lie cast out on the frozen ground, dying, while jays cull my compost pile. The girls replenish our woodbox, readying for another night.


Life is, in its very essence and character, a terrible mystery—this whole business of living by killing and eating. But it is a childish attitude to say no to life with all its pain, to say that this is something that should not have been.

– Joseph Campbell


January, Vermont, 2016





River Ice

Late, yesterday, bringing in firewood, I walked up into the woods just before snow descended with all its might and majesty. Dark was coming in, and I hiked to where I could see the blue ridge of Elmore Mountain in the distance across the valley. Standing perfectly still, I heard nothing, not a single sound, until merely the wisp of my own breath pried open that silence.

The river today is filled with flowing chunks of ice, green like water residing deep in a quarry’s bottom. We woke this morning to icy grapple against the bedroom windows, the wind skulking around the house, like a wild animal, eager to enter. All the wildness of winter returns, the icy realm returned in all its mighty fury – and unspeakable, very earthly beauty.

DUST OF SNOW, by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.