Letter to Stuart McLean

Dear Stuart,

 

          I live in the snowy mountains of northern Montana, surrounded by miles and miles of pristine forest. People around here like to go snowmobiling, backcountry skiing – and the regular kind, too, at our local ski hill – snowshoeing and even dog-mushing; anything to get outside into the crisp, clean hills during the cold months. I like back-country skiing, which is like cross-country skiing, only you use heftier equipment, so you have a better range and can go in rougher country. One cold day my friend Bonnie and I decided to make a ski trip that would take three or four hours and offer us wide, sweeping views from the ridges, deep powder in the bowls and pleasant interludes of kick- Continue reading

Horses’ arses

          Back in the day when I lived out on the treeless prairie I had a friend who used to say you could always tell when the winter wind was out of the north even without trees bending in the breeze or snow showing the way, because all the horses face away from the biting north wind. Today you can bet that every horse’s ass in the county is pointing north, because it’s brisk out there, compadres. It’s minus 25 right now and the wind is coming straight from Santa’s house, briskly. We got enough new snow for me to test out my new snowshoes, so I bundled up and headed out. It was fine traipsing through the forest where the wind is blunted, but when I got to the valley floor where the wind had nothing to stop it but me, it made no difference what the temperature was; all you needed to know was how many seconds it was between exposure and frostbite. My guess is 37.

          Lucky for me I’m the kind of person who, after spending a certain number of years repeating experiences like being exposed to cold under various circumstances; I learn. It only took ten or fifteen years before I wised up and began to carry something warm to cover every portion of my body every time I leave the house. I have no need to pretend the cold doesn’t affect me. It does, but I like to think that being a sentient being makes me smarter than it.  Certainly I’m a lot smarter than all those people who went up to the ski hill for opening weekend, where it’s even colder and windier than here. I did my little outdoor adventure, and then settled in next to the wood stove with a glass of wine and a movie while they keep flirting with hypothermia high above the slopes, clinging to the chair lift as the killing wind howled through them. It’s something to think about while tossing another log on the fire. It used to be that you’d only ever find me with a glass of wine and a book before said fire, but on one of those dark, dark mornings I stumbled out of bed and straight into my TV, sending it crashing to the floor. No tears were shed, since I don’t have any TV reception anyway and can always watch movies on my computer, but now I’ve got a new TV, thanks to my friends Mary and Duane.

          It’s the cutest little thing – seriously, no bigger than a bread-box. Back in 1976 it was state-of-the-art, but now it looks so anachronistic you have to wonder if you need to light the oil lamps behind the screen. At first I thought it was unusable because it didn’t have an auxiliary jack to accept input from my DVD player, but then Duane reminded me  that these things used coaxial cables. Remember back when they were da bomb? Just saying “coaxial cable” was enough for you to get an honorary membership in a futurist club. Nowadays children are surprised and charmed when they learn that your analog wrist watch does nothing but tell the time. From this vantage point it seems like coaxial cables were around when the Earth’s crust was still cooling, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Lo! and Behold! my DVD player even has a coaxial jack! Who knew? It’s like finding a tethering ring on the front bumper of your car just in case you find a need to tether it in front of the saloon while you clatter in through the swinging doors to down a shot of rot gut while listing to the player piano.

          Will my great good fortune never end?  Pop the popcorn, because its movie time! Its such a treat to have time off just when the weather begins to impugn. Most times I’d swear that she has a direct line to my appointment book, so she can throw down a blizzard on the very day I need to travel somewhere. The only time its sunny and sweet is, in my experience, the day I have a mammogram scheduled in a busy office where the wait is long and chilly.  But for today, at least, the curse has been broken. Today I can just let it snow and blow every single btu out of the county while I sit snug in my underground mansion, watching films with subtitles. What more can I want? Oh yeah; money. Send money. Why does everyone ignore that part?