These are the gloomy days now, when there’s often just barely enough snow to be a nuisance. The darkness begins to descend in mid-afternoon and doesn’t lift until well into the morning, by rural standards anyway.
On the webcam that shows the center of town, I saw that it was snowing lightly this morning at 7:45 am. Only two vehicles approached the intersection on the one highway that passes through town. Soon after, someone crossed the highway on foot. I could see that it was slushy.
Of course, on this side of the equator it gets dark everywhere this time of the year. So how is Dubois different?
Because it’s so far from everywhere, in Dubois it is profoundly dark. This is not all bad, mind you: When it’s not actually snowing (which is often), the show of stars is beyond describing in the winter, biblical in brilliance and magnitude.
Just as unforgettable are the snowy nights with a full moon. I love to look across the valley at bedtime on such a night, when the light bouncing off the field of snow is almost as bright as day, but also eerie and ghostly. Features of the landscape show up vividly that I feel I’m not supposed to be seeing at night.
How many people in the modern world ever see this? If you’ve been a city dweller all your life, the mere thought of it haunts you. On those bright and snowy nights I also think of the animals sleeping outdoors, and the ones that are awake and hunting.
Despite all that, and however many Christmas carols we may sing at church, this is not the time of year that makes the heart sing. How fondly I remember those days last July when I had to shield my eyes from the setting sun while driving home from the square dance or the rodeo at around 9 PM!
Long after dinner, while we were beginning the slow, calm slide toward the pillow, we would watch the moon rise to the east in the slow waning of that brilliant blue.
So what is there to do in a tiny, isolated village like Dubois on a day like today, when the sun will set at 4:43 PM and dark will fall at 5:16?
I wonder whether this season and this isolation play a large part in the creation of the splendors we enjoy in mid-summer at the annual quilt show. (I know you’re reading, Eileen. Do you think winter and the solstice create the desire–perhaps the need–to quilt?)
One of our master quilters, Eileen responded:
You’re correct, Lois. We get a lot of quilting done during these days. Every Thursday I have a group of from 8 to 12 women come to my house to quilt. Some even leave their second machine here so they don’t have to cart them each week. Many of us have been working on our 2016 raffle quilt part time (almost ready for the long-arm quilter!) while others work on their individual projects. We affectionately call ourselves the “TQers” (Thursday Quilters). We start around 9 a.m., go out to lunch together at noon, and then return to our projects until about 2:30 or 3 p.m. You can always count on free advice when you have a problem, learn the latest news and laugh a lot! No winter doldrums here!
Just the other day I learned that we missed a neighborhood dinner party held back home in Dubois during our absence for the holidays. I can’t recall when I’ve regretted missing an event more deeply, as I thought of those good friends enjoying each others’ company on a dark winter evening.
This brought back thoughts of the last potluck dinner we attended before leaving in November. That’s my foodie picture at right: Grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, pasta with fresh-made pesto (my contribution, having harvested the last of the basil from the indoor window box). The company was even more enjoyable than the cuisine.
After we return to Dubois in a few weeks, I know these will be our times for jigsaw puzzles, popcorn and Scrabble, and old movies on TCM. But now I wonder: How do our neighbors in Dubois spend those long and perhaps lonely winter evenings?
Are there projects you save up for these winter evenings? Does this become the time you connect with friends you were too busy to see during the high season of summer?
Are there activities in town scheduled for winter evenings that you especially enjoy? Are there any that used to happen which you wish would be revived?
Especially if you’re a reader from the upper Wind River Valley, please enter a comment (be sure you’re on the page for this article, not the home page, and scroll to the bottom to find “Reply,” below the other comments).
I’d really like to know, and so would others.
© Lois Wingerson, 2015
Our local wildman and Scout master Joe Brandl responded, far more beautifully than I could ever have written:
Ahhhhh…the winter months of Dubois. It is these months that the Bighorns are easily observed banging heads along Torrey Creek, a large herd of elk can be spotted up on Windy Mtn, big browns are hungry in the Wind River which never freezes, for the adventuous souls, ice climbing at the Natural Bridge, the sun rises are the most colorful with ice crystals in the air, numerous mule deer does lead their fawns down to the river, the large bucks hang out together in the nearby hay fields, mergansers and golden eyes float the ice free river alway diving for a meal, some nights there is little wind and the snow falls so lightly, covering the streets and we know it will gone by noon the next day when the sun comes out, Christmas day sitting on Torrey Lake ice fishing……in a tee shirt, bald eagle hunt for ducks along the river, the smell of wood smoke from the logs cut in early fall, moon light snowshoeing or skiing on Two Ocean, no tourists to wait behind at the Bistro or crowd you out of a table at the Cowboy, we sweep our porches of snow, shovels only needed in May, hundreds of chickadees, pine siskins, rosy finches and a few remaining doves keep us refilling the bird feeders, more candlelight dinners with friends, the famous Claar Christmas Eve dinner which brings friends together and so much food they provide “to go plates” for you to take home, countless goodies left in your vehicle by someone just wanting to share with you, moonlit nights so bright you can read a newspaper and stars….wow, the stars, millions and millions of them and you can still see them downtown, but on the overlook or up on Togotwee Pass…..well, you just have to experience it! We love the winter because we know spring and summer however short is seems is just ahead. But, for now, we enjoy our winter!
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