28 November 2010

Montana Winter at the Sanctuary

Animals are such agreeable friends they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~ George Eliot (Mary Evans) 1819

It isn't even December yet and this winter is already turning into a lollapalooza! This will be my ninth winter here in Montana and there has been nothing like this so early in the season. I am quite literally up to my butt in snow. My new occupation is snow removal. I have been shoveling, blowing and plowing sometimes twice a day. One thing about it, I get plenty of aerobic exercise.

For a while there we were in the single digits. Some folks down in the valley were at eighteen below. It was so cold ice was growing on the windows on the inside. Six weeks ago twenty-eighth degrees was bone chilling. Now we have moved back up into the high twenties and low thirties and it feels like spring. It really is extraordinary how quickly the human body adapts to its environment. My blood must be moving through my veins like sludge, thank goodness.

I haven’t been out much other than to do my snow removal chores. Living alone I have very strict, self-imposed rules and one of them is I don’t go trudging in the forest when it gets below 20. The reason is; should I have a mishap and not be able to get back to the house I would be a crispy critter pretty darn quick and no one would be worse for the wear.

Yesterday, seeing as how it was nearly thirty I decided to take the old camera out and slog around the ranch. My mule deer herd has return, which is always heart warming. Of course I have Koty for company but having the mulies here is kind of like having family with whom the share the hardships of winter. Each year the mule deer come from the high country to winter where it is easier to forage for food and in the spring they leave again for the high country. It’s always like a homecoming when they return. For some reason mule deer are far more serene than their cousins the whitetail which are here spring to fall.

The mule deer are fairly unperturbed by my presence. Despite their having very big ears they must be tone deaf because I usually sing to them as I wander by and they just stand and look at me as though I’m nuts. Hmmm, they might be on to something? Yesterday I was singing, “The Wicked Witch”. I have no idea why. I just like the lyrics. “Hi ho the merry oh. Sing it high sing it low” just seems perfect for wandering in the woods.

I know this property like the back of my hand but even I might be able to get lost out there now. The roads and paths have been nearly obliterated by the deep snow. The trees are so laden with snow a few have just given up and fallen down. Others have become solid white cones of snow.

My photo taking wasn’t too terribly successful, as I didn’t take my tripod along. It was snowing and lower shutter speeds were needed. But, I was having enough trouble staying upright without it. I landed on my butt or face dawn more than once on my little junket. I was soaked by the time I got back to the house.

But, the slogging was worth the effort. It is so beautiful in the forest in the snow. The silence is deafening and the pristine purity of the fresh fallen snow is sublime. I am often asked why I stay here in the winter. The fact is there is simply nowhere I would rather be. Winter has a beauty that is too wonderful to miss. And, yet, by spring I will be glad to be done with it. I think seasons really do give balance to one’s life.

As you might imagine there wasn’t a lot of color out there but I did stumble upon one spot of color where a tattered orange leaf fallen from a cottonwood tree hung on the snow-covered bough of a fir. I thought it made a nice contrasting image.

Below are just some random photos from my fall about.

Winter Snow

Fallen Tree

Gazebo in the Snow

Mule Deer in the Snow

Winter Tea Party

©Kinsey Barnard Photogaphy


adam said...

Very pretty! I remember building a gazebo like that with my family at our house near Seattle when I was younger. Brings back memories... thanks!

Christine Noel said...

Greetings from your new, yet to be met, friend in Kalispell! How I envy you your remote lifestyle as it is a life I have already lived and miss with all my heart. Stay safe and thank you so much for sharing your world with me, a kindred spirit! My Thanksgiving was a sequel to the Chevy Chase Christmas movie/complete with drunk relatives, stress and lots of work before, and now, after. Later we can laugh about it all!
Talk to you soon,
Chris Christmas (Noel)
NoDoubt Land Company

Walker said...

Thanks Adam: I love that gazebo. It's a great place for contemplation.

Walker said...

Hey Chris:

I just noticed that you comment didn't get to me until today. I wonder what happened.

I can tell you I don't miss all the drama of the holidays. My mulies are my family and they are the sweetest and most serene beings I know.

Adrienne Smith said...

I love your writing style Kinsey, speaking from the heart. My cousin lives in Montana and she's described just how brutal their winters can be. She's on the side of a mountain all by herself. Her husband took a job in Alaska of all places. But I can see where you would fall in love with nature. It is beautiful and the photos you took are just wonderful. That is just way too cold for my bones though. I do admire you for wanting to be there!

Thanks for sharing and pointing me in this direction. I really enjoyed reading your post.