Can you feel the nip in the air?

The icy wind tares at your jacket, the corners of your eyes well up with tears. “how can it be this cold, and still be raining? Shouldn’t this be snow?” You mutter quietly under your breath, no one can hear you complain, even if they could, you would receive no sympathy. Wishing for snow makes you feel like a child, you escape to your youth,waiting through late November, just hoping that it would snow. ..

You remember seeing the first few specks of those soft white crystals descending to the earth. At once you were to your feet, throwing on last years too small snow pants, that match perfectly with this years too big, hand-me-down jacket. Without tying your sorrels you were out the door and running towards the wood shed to grab your sled. There wasn’t even enough snow on the ground yet to cover the dog-doo in the yard, but you were hell bent on being the first kid in town to make a snow angel and build a snow man. You remember coming in tired and wet, shedding off the layers of wet polyester and nylon for Mom to hang around the wood stove, (we all had a pair or two of snow pants that got just a smidge too close to the fire, and we learned that not only were snow clothes warm, but also flammable 😉 ) The smell of your clothes drying (everyone remembers the smell of snow mixed with sweat that fills the house after a good snow day), the taste of hot cocoa, the warmth… oh the warmth of the wood stove, nothing has ever compared with the assurance of a tamarack stoked wood fire. No matter what was for dinner, it was  the tastiest thing that you had ever eaten. Everything about snow felt like a new beginning, it made everything look fresh and untouched, and even as a small child you started to understand what beauty actually is. Like miniature diamond that covered the land and twinkled just for you…

But there is no escaping this rain, it soaks down through your clothes and into your soul. It permeates your whole existence. You can feel your bones start to chill, and your muscles tighten like steel cables coiled too tightly, You need to get up and move, “get the juices goin again”, but you know that it won’t help, Maybe the lack of circulation from being hunkered down, blocks out the shivers you know will surely be setting in shortly. Plus standing up and walking around just isn’t an option, you haven’t been out here since 0’dark-thirty, wet and freezing, to give up now. You hear the faintest whisper,”30 minutes”. The excitement is short lived, as you try to go through your mental check-list… check, check, check, check, check… You are as ready as you will ever be, but now what to do with the other 29 minutes. Don’t think about how cold you are, or how the wind slices through your already soaked jacket like Boreas’ straight-razor. Don’t think about how you could be wrapped up in a warm blanket, cozy in your own bed.”15 minutes, load em up” False dawn has already been on you for 20 minutes, and you know that within the hour the sun will be creeping above the dark timber on the far ridge, “5 minutes, good luck”. No more words are spoken, only nods given with grease smeared faces. All eyes fall to the mud, and all thoughts go to the task at hand. At once the world comes alive, where before you only heard wind and rain, and all you saw was black. Now you see silhouettes, the darkness isn’t black at all. Dark greens, blues and purples explode into your peripheral. “What is that noise?” Its almost deafening, its coming from the left, But you dare not turn your eyes to the sky. “Relax” you keep telling yourself. “Take em boys!” All at once you can no longer feel the cold, the rain seems to stop and everyone jumps to their feet. Orange plumes erupt from the end of camo barrels,  12 gauge shotgun shells  welcoming the morning Sun. You snick off the safety as you notice one flying low that some how has survived the volley of fire. With the first round you tear the water apart a full yard behind him. “If they fly fast, you have to swing faster” you remind yourself. Even before  you touch off the second round, you know that your aim is true, and look to cover the next one in line. “3 o’clock headed away” you hear the call and swing to meet it, squeezing the trigger before you even catch up to the target “follow through, follow through” pounds into your brain as you watch the shot string overcome the second  target. Before the third shotgun hull hits the mud at your feet, you can see both ducks, feet up, peddling towards the sky, as smoke rises from your barrel. The Dogs excitement is uncontrollable, as you loose them from their leads, at full speed they jump into the 40 degree water bawling with enjoyment. “fetch em up boys, fetch em up” as the birds come to shore, and the labs shake the frigid water out of there coats, many high fives and congratulation are exchanged. You lay the birds onto the shore and admire them closely with many thanks, smoothing their feathers and admiring their beauty. You look up just in time to see the sun break cover, then look back down at your harvest. What just landed on that mallards beak? The first lone snow flake, like a miniature diamond twinkling just for you…

-Grant Willoughby 10/29/2016-


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