I like winter, and I'm glad it's snowing today. I'm distressed enough about the world without having to deal with 60 degree days in January. It freaks me out.
One of my most outstanding winter memories is the year we built a bobsled run in our backyard. We: my dad, sister, brother and myself. Backyard: Earlham IA. There was already a lot of snow, and we had a big yard and a raised cement slab off the back porch with a metal railing, stairs down each side and working well pump in the center. That slab saw a great many events over time, like the year I was sitting up on the corner of the railing and fell off backward into my mother's rose bushes. I don't know if the rose thorns were worse than the scraping I got all down my back and the backs of my legs from the concrete. We used to sit on the steps in the summer and eat popsicles and spill kool-aid to watch the colors. We pumped water out of the well for the garden and were admonished never to drink it, which made us wonder what was really down there in that well? The top of the railing was probably five feet high, so it was a great look-out over the yard to the alley.
So, one snowy winter we were out playing in the backyard, and my dad was out with us messing around. My brother wanted to ride sleds, but we had nowhere to do it. That's when my dad suggested a bobsled run. We started by piling up snow around the slab, up the stairs, filling it in around the foundation and railing and then packing it into a gradual slope away and down into the yard. It shot down off the south side stairs and then banked into the yard toward the east, which was toward the garden and alley. A higher start meant better momentum and speed. I don't know how long we worked, maybe several days. We formed the actual sled track using my brother's plastic sled, and we banked it up higher on the south side following the curve into the yard. We packed snow and smoothed it and built the run as far into the garden as we could. Then, my dad got a pail of water and started icing it down.
There is no great ending to this story, which is the way the most life-stories are. The bobsled run worked pretty well, and we all took turns on it. It was tremendous, a great moment in the Wagoner household. We were proud, and we'd had fun together.
My brother tried in following years to duplicate it, but nothing ever turned out as well as the first one. Maybe my sister and I were too old to be involved by then. Maybe the snow was not the same and would never be again -- like so many things in this bittersweet life.
THE SNOW MAN by Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.