The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is look out the window to check on the weather. Often a fresh snow has fallen during the night, giving the lawn and woods that clean, sparkling look. A few inches of snow covers muddy tracks, smoothes edges, and makes everything look new. If more than a foot has fallen, I get dressed to go out and shovel, but otherwise, I admire the snow and then climb back in bed to snuggle under the quilt a few minutes more, listening sleepily while my husband attempts to get our youngest son to come down for breakfast. With-a-Why likes to eat his cereal and then come climb into bed to snuggle with me for a few minutes at the beginning of the day, so I feel it's my parental obligation to stay cosily in bed.
Eventually, though, With-a-Why has to brush his teeth and get dressed for school, and I go downstairs to feed the cats. By then the house is fairly warm, but a blast of cold air rushes into the house when I open the sliding glass door to let in any cats that stayed out during the night. If we are getting a warm spell, the back step will be covered with lovely ice crystals, formed from the water that drips from the eaves. On windy days, powdery snow dances in circles across the yard, smoothing out the edges of footprints.
Whenever it doesn't snow for a few days, the snow on the ground becomes a map, a record of activities. Out front, it's easy to see that a flurry of activity took place around the pile of snow which the kids are making into a ramp. Rabbits leave their distinctive tracks when they go running across the side yard, and sometimes I'll see the trail of a fox. The deep tracks are from the hooves of white-tailed deer who come to browse for food along the edges of lawns and roads. A big section of churned-up snow in the backyard means that Boy in Black and Shaggy Hair led a gang out to play Ultimate Frisbee during the night. When, later in the day, I pull on a coat and boots for a walk in the woods, I come across all kinds of tracks and rubbings and scat, reminders of all the other creatures who share the land with us.
Cat paw prints on my back step in the blue light of early morning.