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Finding Winter

This winter in Connecticut has been awful – not cold enough, not enough snow. I remember my first New England winter 20 years ago. I had never seen so much snow at one time. I walked empty streets during a heavy nighttime snowfall in early January, up the long hill from my apartment to the village green where the Gothic-style church dominates the neighborhood. A unique peacefulness covered everything. I watched dense snowflakes emerge from the black sky to be illuminated by streetlights before falling on me where I sat.

Ever since, I’ve welcomed snowbound winters. I grew tired of waiting for it this year, so we drove north. We had to cross into Vermont to see significant snow cover, watching the car’s temperature gauge drop one degree at a time to 15. Perfect.

The exit for Lake Morey swept us off Interstate 91 to the quiet, narrow Vermont roads I love to travel in winter. We were the only car in sight. Small, humble signs pointed us toward the lake, which had been suitably frozen over for a few weeks now. There’s a 4.5-mile skating trail around the lake, the longest ice trail in the United States, and several areas plowed off and designated for pond hockey.

The paved road gave way to gravel by the time we pulled into the parking area. We gathered up our layers, skates and hockey stick and followed the walking path down to the lake – icy and magnificent. Houses appeared as dots across the vastness. The distinctive sound of skate blades scraping and clicking along the thick ice became soft and diffused in the mountain air, just as the clack of hard rubber pucks against hockey sticks was absorbed quickly.

Quilted clouds rolled in with snow sprinkles, gave way to sharp blues, then returned. Time slowed to a crawl, as it does when we’re in nature, cruising down a mountain or standing still in the snow. I walked a couple hundred feet from the shore, toward the modest ice fishing huts, watched the specks of people skating on the far side until they disappeared on the horizon before completing the loop, appreciated how easily I slipped into a feeling of peaceful solitude.

I breathed deeply until the cold air cut through me. This was a winter’s day to celebrate.

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