After our walk this morning Raven came inside and rolled onto her back, tentatively, for the first time since her surgery exposing her Jiggy-belly for a rub. Avoiding the incision I gently massaged her tummy on each side, and rubbed the little white star on her chest. She is 95% out of the woods, says Doc, after we skied through the woods early this afternoon. “I bet you never thought you’d be this excited to see a dog poop,” he added. So her system is functioning again, though sluggishly and painfully. “She’ll be sore for another week or so, she might strain a little and that’s okay. As long as she doesn’t strain and strain. Something can still go wrong in the next day or two, but she’s doing really well. You’ve done a great job.”
“So did you,” I said. “Oh, I just closed my eyes,” he said.
It’s been a full-time job, tending this little bad dog and her stitched up intestine. I’m exhausted. My usual exercise of walking them half a mile a day then letting them in and out as they like has burgeoned to well over two miles each day in three or four forced marches. This morning and evening we walked to the top of the driveway and back, more than half a mile each trip. In between, we skied up and back then continued on through the yard and out toward the canyon, another mile plus at a good clip. But even my skiing downhill is no more than a brisk walk for Raven, and she helped me up the hills. My hips are feeling it, and my left foot throbs, but my stamina has already increased, and I can feel those starches burning up.
The snow so far this year has been great for cross-country. This year, I mean this whole winter, which seems like it’s been months but in fact actually started on time: We had a long mild autumn with only a couple of cold snaps, and snow and arctic blasts only began in earnest right around the solstice, the alleged first day of winter. It occurred to me today that in less than two months I’ll be photographing bees on crocuses. So no complaints here about this winter, which when it finally did arrive arrived with commitment. Snowpack in the mountains is above normal throughout most of the state, after alarmingly low measurements just a few weeks ago. But back to the snow down here, on the plateau.
It’s been crisp and dry, and ideal for skiing through the woods. Some years it’s just heavy and wet all winter, and sticks to the bottoms of skis and holds you back. Like so many things can, if you let them. This short bright season, we just glide along. I understand the allure of fresh powder for those crazy downhill skiers, it’s great for nordic as well. Brutally cold temperatures also help. But I’ve noticed before that ski conditions deteriorate as soon as I see snowfleas.
Maybe this year will be different. It was still plenty cold this afternoon when we encountered them. But usually they signify warmer weather, which means melty snow, which can impede skis. I didn’t believe in snowfleas when I first heard the word, but have since come to be quite fond of the little critters and greet them with delight. On closer inspection, they look almost like thistle seeds! But smaller, and they bounce. You don’t have to watch long before you see them popping and hopping off the snow. Also, they cannot kill your dog. In fact, snowfleas are beneficial arthropods, decomposers who live in the duff under trees and break down decaying matter, making its nutrients more accessible for growing plants. They are also prey to beetles, ants, and other tiny predators. Just one more species living its life among the rest of us, one more unique manifestation of the divine.
While they are always there in the fertile decay of the forest floor, at an astounding density of a hundred thousand or more per square yard, you can really only see them in the snow, when they sometimes rise to the surface. Why? I’m not sure anybody knows. Snowfleas remind me there is so much I don’t yet and may never know about the world we inhabit. Divine mystery can be immense or tiny.