Tuesday, February 08, 2011

winter in the woods

Life in the woods. We get up whenever Sofie makes her way down the stairs - this morning in a baffling bump-bump-longpause procession that we laid in bed puzzling over before realizing that she was slowly making her way down on her bottom, one thump at a time.

After breakfast we draw for a while, then go out to play in the snow. Today we trudge over to the empty cabin behind us, which involves busting through a lot of knee-high, untouched snow -- Sofie, light as she is, floats on top but it's rather a harder proposition for me.

After we peer through its windows and confirm that yes, it's still completely unoccupied, we make our way back through the same footsteps, then pull out the trusty sled for a trip around the loop of our road. It's a gorgeous day -- 31 degrees, utterly clear and brilliantly sunny. The road is snowy in most places, icy in some, but we make it most of the way around without too many mishaps.

A quick trip down our favorite sledding spot doesn't go so well today. Now that we've been visiting it daily the sled run we've carved out is getting icy and hard and, as a result, exponentially faster. The first trip down was fun; today's trip was heart stopping for a brief moment, and entirely too much for Sofie, who cried but insisted on trying again. When we skipped out of the track the second time halfway down the hill and got dumped out on our sides, she decided she'd had enough and we had a whiny and sobby walk back to the house.

Oh well. Hot chocolate and whipped cream fix most things when you're four.

Brett works upstairs with his window looking out through an impressive field of icicles into the woods and snow. It's an awesome spot to sit. He puts on Mozart later in the day, quite loudly, and we all enjoy it. Between the gorgeous weather and the fireplace crackling and just the calm and quiet of this house, the most ordinary things seem so much more beautiful here than at home. Maybe we'll stay longer, we discuss at lunch. One hundred days, Sofie suggests. She likes it too.

Sofie and I putter most of the rest of the day, except for a quick trip into town to visit the hardware store so that I can carry out an impulse project. One of our vacation rental tenants has rehung the bedroom curtains so that the top third of the windows is left clear of fabric, and I've decided that they're right; it's much nicer that way. You still get a little privacy from the road, but you can see the trees and sky while you lay in bed. However, the half-assed way they're rehung bothers me, so we go buy an iron so I can chop off the bottom ten inches of each curtain, iron in a new hem, and sew them up. By hand. Which takes about thirty minutes, looks good, and is very satisfying. 

Dinner is yesterday's homemade soup. Since I've learned to cook better, I find the difference in how I shop and travel for these vacations interesting. Instead of bringing a bunch of fancier ingredients to a week up here, I now bring things like chicken broth, flour, and yeast. Cans of beans. Some meat and greens. We'll make good food out of it, I'm sure.

So far we've made biscuits, homemade bread, turkey meatball soup with greens and white beans, and a pasta bake. I'm on quite a midwinter carb bender right now, wanting warm homemade bready things all the time. It's not doing my waist any good, I'm sure, but it's definitely comforting, and the ritual of bread making is my new love. Yesterday's loaf I brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds and sea salt before putting it in the oven. It was a revelation. Not one ounce of it remained in the house by morning. "Can you make more of this?" Brett asked. Maybe tomorrow. The fireplace shelf is a great place for letting bread dough rise.

It's Brett's night to do bedtime, and time for one of my favorite rituals -- looking through Sofie's notebooks to see what twenty or thirty artistic creations she came up with today. She draws more than she does anything else, constantly, all day long, and her work is always evolving. Today she's using her markers to make huge washes of color alongside the ever present cats she creates. A bright fuschia couch, a blue chair. Some of the cats are surrounded by music notes. Many of them have sly humor to them -- a perfectly normal-appearing cat, until you notice the eyes of two other cats peeking out from behind him. A toilet, with a cat perched to drink from it, only his backend and tail showing over the rim. Funny, funny stuff.

In the moments when Sofie is amusing herself or absorbed in a drawing, I am utterly wolfing down Just Kids, by Patti Smith, which I'm finding beautifully written, and I'm binding a small pile of quilts, taking a few pictures, staring up into Lucky Jim mountain to try to see deer (must buy binoculars!) and generally relaxing. We don't do anything remarkable here, but all three of us seem to feel as if it's a kind of nirvana. I read somewhere once that humans are evolved to need the sensation of dappled sunlight, sun filtered through trees, to be happy. I can't possibly find the reference now, but it was something about dopamine and how we evolved from forest-dwelling creatures so that this interplay of light is hard-wired into our happiness centers. I believe it. 

It's neighborly here. This afternoon the ladies who clean the house after each vacation rental stopped by, just to chat and see how we were doing, and we ended up chatting with them for almost an hour. Sofie took them up to see her bedroom and they were kind enough to play along, despite having been in there at least a dozen times already, I'm sure, and we all talked about kids and life in the valley.

We're having our friends who live across Highway 20, the main thoroughfare here, over for dinner in a few nights, and Sofie and I regularly run into the very nice lady across the street and her dogs on their daily walks. At the hardware store, the older gentleman ringing me up volunteers that I really ought to exchange one or two of the things I've picked out for a better deal, and another man kindly carries my fifty pound bag of rock salt out to the car and then stops to blow up balloons for Sofie. The ladies at the country doctor's clinic where I had to take Sofie yesterday morning were funny and chatty and made use feel quite at home.

It's slow and small-town and very welcoming. It's nice to know a few people. I always fantasize about living here fulltime and hope that maybe sometime we'll get to spend a year up here, at least. It won't be for a while, since we have ties and responsibilities that keep us happily in Seattle, but it's fun to dream about it.


Jacki said...

That was beautifully written, and very evocative. It sounds wonderful to be making these memories with Sofie. I can't wait to see some of her artwork when you get back to Seattle.

Dana said...

While our place doesn't have near the scenery of yours, I agree that the peace and quiet is very addicting! And it makes you realize that simple is good.


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