Winter is Coming

It’s coming…can you hear it?

It’s coming!

Okay, look, I was once described — quite accurately, mind you — as a 12-year-old with a car and a job.  It doesn’t actually matter how “old” I am, a big chunk of me is still that young kid who wants nothing more than to lose himself in fantasy and dreams and other worlds.  For me, as a writer, that is an inescapable part of who I am, and of why I write.

But it spills over into the real world, too.

Last night was the Gardiner Christmas Stroll.  For most of the year, Gardiner, Montana is a busy gateway community, one of the main entry points into Yellowstone.  But right now, after the close of the autumn season and before the start of the winter, it is just a tiny, tight-knit town.  Everyone who lives and works here supports the park, and caters to the tourists, in some way, so we all share many of the same highs and lows, many of the same frustrations, the same jokes, the same reality…

Yellowtone’s winter seasons kicks off on December 15th, so the Stroll is the last chance we really have to enjoy and celebrate each other, rather than the tourists.  It is a chance to chat and get to know the others, those who you won’t get much of a chance to see and talk-to — except in passing — when the buses and snowcoaches and hordes get running again.

For me, the Stroll marks also the beginning of that which I love so much: the Christmas season.  That’s why I talked about being an arrested-adolescent, by the way.

Like most kids, I love Christmas.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, in spite of my best efforts to be that “12-year-old with a car and a job,” Christmas looks different, and certainly feels different from when I was young, but…  But, I can still feel the echoes and hints of that little kid I used to be, back when what I was matched who.

I have friends to whom Halloween is the ultimate holiday.  The license to let loose their own inner-child in dark, over-the-top worlds of fantasy and nightmare is just too much to resist for them.

For others, it is the whimsy and drunken idiocy of St Patty’s Day, or Cinco de Mayo…

The patriotism and backyard traditions of July 4th…

For me, it’s the snow and the trees.  It’s the lights and decorations.  It’s the breathless enthusiasm and dreams of the young.  It’s the sense of community and sharing with family and friends.  It’s the knowledge that the deepest, darkest part of winter is genuinely a reminder of the spring to come.

And it was the Stroll that truly brought home to me that it’s coming…

shutterstock_543528610George RR Martin had it wrong, by the way.  His words, intended to be dark and fearful and foreboding, are nothing of the sort.

Winter is coming.

Winter — Christmas — is coming!t0z4r3mwzccfc_600

Oh, I’ll be out I the park watching the wolves and snowshoeing the trails.  Never doubt that.  I’ll also be working long hours, through frustrations and annoyances, to support the organization and the park.  But…but, more than that, I’ll be who I really am: that 12-year-old kid, staring off into the distance in wonder and delight.  That kid who still dreams, who still lives in a world of magic and possibilities.  And the adult shell that exists around that little kid will still use those dreams to write, and to create.

 

P.S.

I’ve written before about this time of year.  This is the most recent (and Christmas-y) of those old posts.  But, for those who are just as lazy and slacker-ish as I am, I’ll boil all that down to — of course — a song.  My favorite Christmas carol, as a matter of fact.  The Christmas carol, if you want to get right down to it, for the broken and flawed who have nothing to offer but themselves…

 

P.P.S.

Err…I talked about two songs in the linked post above, but I hadn’t yet learned to link the videos inline with the text.  Below are the videos of the other two Christmas carols that truly matter to me:

90 Days…And A Bit More

The last snow here in Yellowstone came on June 22nd, the summer solstice.

CB47650C-F077-48B3-8517-47E9EC463940Summer has not yet officially ended, but the first snow has come already…on September 21st.  That’s right, two days before the official end of summer.  Not even ninety days, and the snows are here again.

Yep, that’s about right for this place: three months of summer, and nine of winter.

It’s a good thing I like the cold.  Hell, it’s even better that I like hiking in the cold!  The animals are out this time of year, you see, eating like mad to get ready for winter.  The only other period that comes even close to this is the early spring, when they are again eating like mad to recover from the winter.

Two days ago I was out on a favorite trail of mine, early in the morning.  Within the first mile I saw a wolf pack stalking an elk herd, and a grizzly circling a dying bison.  Throw in the eagle I saw as well and I hit the freaking jackpot within 20 minutes of setting out!

“But why are you going up there again?!” I was asked six months ago.

Gee, I wonder…

Err…that’s why I’m staying, too.

Yep, that’s right, I gave in and signed up to stay through the winter.  Through temperatures of 20-30 degrees below zero (that’s in Fahrenheit, in Celsius it translates to … err … umm … freaking COLD).  Through 20+ feet of snow on the ground.  Through no possible road travel.  Through no one around but a few fellow lunatics…

I’m gonna love it.  But…

But…

But what about the writing?

Ahem.8B440182-2AE3-4395-B6F6-5D762FF269FE

I’m sanguine.

Ish.

Hey, my productivity can’t get any lower than the last six months…

…can it?

The good news, of course, is that I’ll be up here — still mostly out of contact and 8A5B492A-F26A-4432-B7FF-9A484642E648away from it all — as the current political climate gets nothing but nuttier as the election comes ever closer.  Like the tramp of sweet, cute little lizard, it comes ever closer…

Ahh, a special thank you to Ray Bradbury for the ultimate expression of how I feel about the coming election: something wicked this way comes, indeed!

This way comes the carnival of insults and bitterness…28C1D836-6628-469A-87BF-62D3203305B2

The carnival of partisan rancor and lies…

The carnival of knee-jerk hate and intolerance…

The carnival of everything that’s wrong with us as a nation…

Yeah, I’ll take the starving bears and wolves, thank you very much.

Summer Solstice 2019 and It’s Snowing. Again.

It is officially the Summer Solstice as I write this.  It’s the longest day of the year, the official start of summer, and…well…there’s no other way to say this: it’s freaking snowing.  Again.

01f164abb6067094bdc3837a4bbba401Now, look…you all know me.  You all know that I love me some snow.  Heck, I’ve thought more than once about staying up here in Yellowstone through an entire winter (with our average of 20+ feet of snow), but even I have had enough of this shit.

How about some goddamned sun, for pete’s sake?!?!29627147917_b0d56ed5b8_b

Do I need to sacrifice some animal on the nearest pagan altar?  Because, honestly, I got lots of ‘em around.  I have bison, I have elk, I have tourists…01-Crowd_0544

Okay, so honestly, I’d feel better about the using the tourists than the poor, innocent bison, but whatever gets me some damned sunshine…

images-2What?  Grumpy?  Me?  Oh, please…I’m the soul of cheerful optimism!

Ahem.

On the other hand, most of the tourist kids are having snowball fights, are laughing and jumping and just generally having a great time, while their parents are grousing and complaining about the weather.  You gotta smile at that, even if just a little bit.

2c315dc867c5fac31f5ed5b3fee831bfThe animals, on the other hand, are absolutely loving this semi-weird weather.  Grizzlies are many things — they are fast, they are powerful, they are both awesome and fearsome to watch — but beyond everything else, they are also lazy as hell.  When it gets hot, they just want to loll around in the shade and go for the occasional swim in cool water.  When it stays cold like this?  They’re out moving around, eating and carousing, and in general just having an ursine ball.

And to a bison, with all that insulation?  Yeah, 8 degrees and 80 degrees feel just about the same.Tom_Szajner

It is in fact only us wimpy hoomins who are bitching and complaining that it’s “too cold” and “too wet” and “too grey”…

On the other hand: I’M FREAKING COLD!!

Harrumph.

They Lied To Me!

The folks I bought the trailer from ran through a checklist for me of all the stuff they had done to get everything ready.  One of those things was, “filled both propane tanks.”

Ahem.

I ‘bout froze my testicles off from that one!

Look, I know I should have checked the damned bottles myself, just to be sure they really had filled them, but…well…headed into Yellowstone for six months like I was, I had a lot of other crap on my mind at that point…

533F3DB3-8CFE-4EFE-A781-761C2CA49D53I should probably point out something about Yellowstone in spring: it ain’t really spring until summer starts.  Look, it’s May 2nd as I write this and there is 3 feet of snow on the ground.

Well, a few nights ago, the temp dropped to -10 farenheit* and…okay, I think we can all guess what happened then…

*For you Celsius folks, that’s freaking COLD — that’s something like -23 C

Yep, you win the prize!  My freaking propane ran out!

Do you know what happens when the furnace in a 28-foot trailer conks out in that kind of cold?!

Tears, that’s what happens!5F48ECD4-0D02-47A5-AB69-DF75CE577593

The bastards lied to me. They had half-filled one tank, and ignored the other entirely. That deserves a major HARRUMPH!

I would be more pissed, I should add, except…

Except…

Except…I’m back in the middle of the damned wilderness.  My house may be small, but my backyard is fucking awesome!

The baby bison — called red dogs, and cute as hell — are just being born right now…

The wolf pups are cautiously coming out of the dens with their parents…

The bear cubs are going absolutely nuts, playing in the snow…

Everything is hungry as hell right now, from the bison down to the chipmunks, so they are all out and eating everything in sight.  Just this evening, in fact, I already had my first close encounter with a grizzly. He was a small one — barely a juvenile who had just recently struck out on his own — but it still was a great reminder just how NOT on top of the food chain I am in this place.

8CFB9B28-9B56-4FD2-8DFC-0E5A4744BF04It was also a majorly cool reminder not just of where I am, but why I’m here.

I can feel the chains falling away, and the words coming back.  I can feel the rhythms and cadences of sentences and phrases and scenes.  I can feel the emotion, and the truth, that is the best driver for any writing.  I sat already, I should add, in a place I wasn’t technically, umm, allowed to be, and the words and images just started to flow on their own…