Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mountain Monster

Hoarfrost Up High
White Fog Begins
It Grew Whiter and Whiter
The mountain monster called Hoarfrost descends upon Elmira like a ghostly spirit white as dry bones. This is not the gentle Mists of Elmira that can rise from the bogs of this valley any time of year. In fact, it's pure pleasure to feel the air cool in summer after the sun settles west behind the Blue Ridge and watch mist agitate the surface of Elmira Pond as if it were a mysterious wafting cauldron. In winter, vally fog is common.

What caught my eye with this bleached-white fog was how bright it appeared. It began like a layer cake until it touched the low-hanging cloud ceiling. Then Hoarfrost, that ice-breathing monster of higher elevations, paid a visit -- for three long days of blinding white.

Hoarfrost is the result of water vapor turned to ice crystals. Here in northern Idaho, we have much water vapor given that our weather patterns are moisture-drenched courtesy of the Pacific Ocean. We get dumped with moisture and when moisture evaporates, it rises. When the clouds and fog clears, you can see what Hoarfrost did at the tops of the mountains, leaving trees caked in crystalline white vapor.

Rarely does Hoarfrost make it down the mountains. The valley floor is too warm for his icy touch. But this white fog, blinding as it was, hid Hoarfrost's sneaky descent. And I heard monsters:

Yes, Todd calls me the Cowardly Cowgirl. I think every strange sound has monster potential. Yet, I have a curious nature. Curiosity won over cowardliness and I did venture to the barn to realize that Hoarfrost had settled above and was spitting ice onto the metal roof:

My best explanation (beyond that of a visitation by a Mountain Monster) is that the rising water vapor met with freezing conditions high in the Ponderosa pine over the barn and ice crystals rained back down on the metal roof. Strange, but with explanation. Hoarfrost was messing with us.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos & videos by Charli Mills.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Alternate snow and rain, thaw and freeze, leaves craters across the snow at Elmira. Surrounded by a moonscape, I wait for spring. Or more winter. It's that time of year that feels like indecision. So I hunker down in the house, sitting on a patch of sunbeam that warms the carpet and I circle seeds in a garden catalog.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills.

My Garden

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Snow Cat

Todd the Shoveler
A Man and His Cat
Bootsy Inspecting the Pavement
Bootsy Trails
Snow Cat
Visitor for Coffee on the Porch
White snow is like a blank page or canvas, ripe for creative dreaming. It's the backside of a quilt before you dream up a pattern and colors. I'm wasting my imagination on material wants. I want new socks, a cushy reading chair and new dinner plates. These are trivial things.

And then I watch Todd widen the narrow strip of our driveway from packed snow with his square farm shovel, the one so heavy that I can  hardly lift it, the one he likes because it won't break like the plastic ones. Elmira snow is dense--waterlogged last week and now sculpted ice. I want a snow cat.

As if on cue with my rambling thoughts, Bootsy sees Todd pause in his shoveling and she trots to him on the path he's cleared. She is an impressive snow cat. From my bedroom upstairs I can see her tracks in the snow. She hunts the north pasture for buried mice and trails home, passing below my bedroom window.

Bootsy has no complaint about the snow. Her fur is thick and her pads hairy. She's elegant in the snow, this outdoor tuxedo cat. At one time she stayed far from us, rarely making her presence known. Now she's like one of the family. She greets me on the porch and we often share a cup of coffee. She's crazy, my snow cat. Not only does she prowl the snow she also tries to lick at my coffee.

But Bootsy is not the snow cat I'm wanting. It would be incredible to own the machine that has treads for trundling over snow like a tank, with a plow mounted on front to clear our drive in a few swipes. Todd could even use it to pack his trail from the wood barn and tie the sled behind it to haul our source of heat.

If I had a snow cat, I'd drive out on the pastures and explore the snowshoe rabbit trails, visit my neighbor and look for elk and moose. If I had a snow cat, I'd joy ride the strip of land that runs at the base of the mountain ridge and look for old ranch houses or abandoned moonshine stills.

Bootsy steps up on the porch and I sit. She stands on my lap, kneading my thigh with her claws, purring. And I'm reminded to be satisfied with what I have.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Slush Bog
Where Fog & Clouds Meet
Geologic Forces at Work
Snow Dumped in Heaps from the Roof
Waterlogged Pink
Fluffy white snow compacts into winter bog in northern Idaho. It's swampy and soupy and incredibly heavy. I look into the bright southern sunlight and a field of snow blinds me momentarily. It's warm, and I'd expect the snow to melt, but it is so dense that it transforms into slush.

Fog and clouds mingle among the trees on the ridge behind Elmira Pond. Vapor visiting vapor. Even the air is saturated at 100% humidity, as if this place were a winter jungle. While the Midwest closes schools because of wind chill factors well below zero, we are shoveling slush in tee-shirts.

The snow slides off the roof in heaps so heavy it sounds like someone is slamming a door; a disconcerting sound in the middle of the night. Who's there? Then another heap sloughs off and we realize it's just the roof shedding more slush.

My big concern is the mass building up behind our chimney. Granted, the chimney is braced, but you can see how the wet snow is folding and pressing like some geological mass. My roof is practicing plate tectonics. The force that can move mountains might take my chimney.

As the sun dips west, I rejoice that it is after 4 p.m. The days are already getting longer. As if to celebrate, the setting sun illuminates the sodden sky vapors with coppery pink. Even the color looks waterlogged.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Red Flares

Red Flare at Elmira
Red Lights of an Accident
On HWY 95 by Elmira Schoolhouse
Traffic Down to One Lane
My Car Gathering More Snow in the Driveway
Barn Kitty Braves the Snow
And again it snows. A hay-truck hauling round bales slowly passes by my house, and I wonder if he's having trouble or if it's really that icy on the road.

Then flashing lights to the south appear. An ambulance from Sandpoint lumbers carefully toward Elmira. If there is an accident, the first-responders are responding with caution. The roads must be that icy.

I finish the dishes and notice that cars are stopping. My next chore is feeding the barn cat so I bundle up in my wool coat, scarf and rabbit fur bomber hat. I step into Todd's boots and trudge through the snow piling up once again.

Instead of the garage, I head to HWY 95. Elmira is lit up with a string of red road flares. The accident, hidden by lights, occurred in front of the Elmira School property. Many lights flash and I can see the reflective gear of responders.

Now there are two ambulances, two fire trucks and a slew of deputies. It's hard to judge the severity of an accident by the number of responders on the scene. Locals say that because the first-responders are volunteers who get paid for showing up, everyone shows up.

I watch a volunteer set up flares that glow red in the snow. Better that the community all shows up than not at all. If I needed rescuing, I'd prefer to be rescued here by Bonner and Boundary County residents. I remain hopeful that since no one is posting about the accident on the social media grapevine, that it is not serious.

My own car is getting dusted in, and Todd's shovel waits in a pile of snow for him to plow our drive once again. Each year we say we need a snow blower. Maybe one year we will get one. For now I hope that the cars on the road are safe, and I'm grateful Todd no longer has a long commute, especially in winter weather.

As I walk toward the garage, Bootsy greets me in the snow trail. Once in the garage I feed her, pour fresh water to replace her iced-over dish and I hold her to sing "kitty songs." Last month she let me pick her up and now she expects it.

Home, community and kindness. Even in the glare of accident flares we can practice what peace is made of.