What is it about this snowy Wednesday morning that made me think of the 1950s musical “Oklahoma!” with its irrepressible theme song: “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’, oh what a beautiful day!”
Must be something about a fresh snowfall that makes the world a brighter place, or, if we just count our blessings and look around us, we realize how beautiful a place this is.
Certainly this snowy, crisp Vermont morning in mid-April has nothing to do with summertime in Oklahoma, or a cowboy (Curly) wanting to take his sweetheart (Laurie) to a dance at a barn social that night, but the spirit of the day — in fictitious Oklahoma and in yesterday’s Vermont — dawned with optimism. Except here we were decked out in three to four inches of velvety snow blanketing the still-brown grass of spring, and covering up (for the moment) the mud and grime and not-yet-picked-up branches.
While Curly’s song tells of summer wheat growing as high as an elephant’s eye, here we had snow clinging to branches of evergreen trees that drooped to the ground, creating tent-like canopies protecting hidden hollowed spaces inside. Higher up, leafless deciduous branches stood out like the clothed bones of skeletons layered with snow, bent and creating arches over forested mountain roads.
Where I live, the contrast of Lake Dunmore’s dark, newly open waters with the whiteness of the landscape added to the drama and punctuated this delightful mix of seasons that is Vermont.
Two days prior, temperatures reached 80 and the community was alive with runners and bikers, T-shirts and shorts. Smiles brightened with the prospect of warmth, sunshine and the promise of summer. We gardened, raked the lawn, started cleaning up winter’s debris. We saw the first crocus and green shoots of daffodils breaking through the mulch. We entertained visions of flowering annuals, fresh vegetables and the abundance found at our favorite farmers’ markets.
Wednesday’s onslaught of wintry snow might be a rude intrusion of that spring reverie, but there are lessons to be learned in acceptance and living in the moment as it is, not as the calendar suggests it might be.
For me, Wednesday dawned with the inspiration to race up to the Snow Bowl, throw skins on my backcountry skis and take a hike to the top for a final run or two down Middlebury’s jewel of a ski area. The prospect of the morning exercise, the bracing coolness of the air and the undeniable renewal of the day that a fresh blanket of snow creates was a powerful temptress. Like many a winter’s morning, the new snow is like a new canvas on which to paint the day’s goals, tasks to accomplish — and joys, an opportunity to begin anew and another day to savor life’s adventure.
The morning also refreshed memories of this long ski season, with its early start in late October and full-bore winter by mid-November. We had great early snows by Thanksgiving that lasted through mid-December, until we hit the rain and blizzards of Christmas week and a dry stretch through January into February. It got cold this winter with four or five spells of sub-zero weather, dropping to 20 below zero for days at a time, lasting into late March.
Belatedly, we got feet of snow in several back-to-back storms creating some of the best March skiing the state has seen in several years. On the backside of Mount Mansfield, there was knee- to thigh-deep powder in the woods, creating some epic Eastern skiing through the steeper, narrow chutes on either side of Smugglers Notch. Ski areas will have been open for close to 180 days this winter by season’s end.
For mogul skiers, the past weekend with temps in the 50s and low 60s was beyond compare. Big bumps half the size of a grown man, but soft and pliable, just right to bust through, or bounce off the top from mogul to mogul down the fall line. It’s tough on older knees, but the spirit of those beautiful days is a powerful narcotic and painkiller — at least in the moment.
Perhaps the gift of skiing (or any other outdoor sport) in a long Vermont winter is that it creates the right frame of mind for cold, snowy days. You learn to look forward to them with the eagerness of a kid greeting the first snowfall of each winter — the chance to throw snowballs, build a snowman or an igloo, sled and romp in this playground that is continually refreshed throughout the season.
That’s looking at the glass half full, or a bit fuller.
Yet, for all my enthusiasm, I didn’t make it up to the Snow Bowl bright and early this morning; nor did I see kids in yards romping in the snow; and not a single snowman in a yard.
No doubt it’s time for spring flowers.
But it’s also undeniable that Wednesday was a beautiful morning in Vermont and, with the right frame of mind — if we focus on our assets instead of our liabilities — we can sense, as Curly did, “a wonderful feeling that everything’s going (our) way.”