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THE DREAMING SEASON

two weeks of quiet

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Pt. 1

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Pt. 2

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Pt. 3

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Pt. 4

3/6

Any search for winter is also a search for death. We want to taunt it, and deny it, but those are also excuses for seeking its proximity. Winter sports are generally adrenaline sports: they synthesize great danger, while minimizing the consequences over the softness of snow. What we’re doing is not taunting death but setting ourselves, in slow motion, against a stark reality. Ours’ is a grueling and belabored performance of tasks necessary to survival. By carrying on through cold and dark, and grimly guarding our spark, we know life again as a fragile and precious thing.

Winter is not death alone. Life and light are found more radiantly there than anywhere. Only in the winter is the intensity of ambient light liable to blind you. Only there can a glance at the ground offer a complete record of every terrestrial species that crossed a meadow an hour or day before you. There may be less, but we can see more in it.

This is different from a summer trip. We are going to get somewhere. We need to get there. We’re not just passing time; we can’t. All our waking hours and energies go toward our destination. We have one speed: it’s the best we can manage. Meanwhile, small surprises throw us. There is ice on the bottom of the sled. Snow on our climbing skins. The weather blinds us. Through mazes of regenerating pine, we hold on to the trail like a lifeline. Nevermind, the signs are all buried: we proceed on faith alone. We are easily lost. And none of the gear holds up in the long run. The rubber is cracking on my boots. Ice crystals grow larger inside the sleeping bag each night. The straps and buckles are all frozen, it’s steadily getting worse. Our skin is swelling and scabbing. Jen’s toe is probably frost bit. Disaster lives in all directions.

We do it for the incomparable images and forms, light and purity, beauty. Life was not meant to see this place, this weather, this clearing of the slate. But among the burnt black boles of forest fires, the sense in which this season prepares the world for more life is clear.

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Pt. 5

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“You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless. And whoever wants more and has got it in him– the heroic and the beautiful, and the reverence for the great poets or for the saints– is a fool and a Don Quixote. Good. And it has been just the same for me, my friend.”

–Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

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it’s happening again
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He had been groping and grabbing after certainty, as if it were something he could possess. He had been demanding a security, a guarantee, which is not granted, and which, if granted, would become a prison. –Ursula Leguin

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