Cookery Maven Blog

A Midwinter's Adventure

Slowly, slowly, they return To the small woodland let alone: Great trees, outspreading and upright, Apostles of the living light.

Patient as stars, they build in air Tier after tier a timbered choir, Stout beams upholding weightless grace Of song, a blessing on this place.

They stand in waiting all around, Uprisings of their native ground, Downcomings of the distant light; They are the advent they await.

Receiving sun and giving shade, Their life's a benefaction made, And is a benediction said Over the living and the dead.

In fall their brightened leaves, released, Fly down the wind, and we are pleased To walk on radiance, amazed. O light come down to earth, be praised!

Wendell Berry

The first time we hiked out to the Sioux River with Julie and Charly, I knew it was my kind of place. Lots of red and white pines, a spring fed river and plenty of faces in the trees to keep my occupied for hours. I've always wanted to go back during the winter and a few weeks ago, I got my wish. We dog-sledded and skied out to Charly's sweet winter camp and it was exactly what the doctor ordered for a woman who missed, and I mean really missed, the sight and sound of running water.

Of course, I had to include a shot of Vader. He's the George equivalent at Julie's house and as such, ends up in a lot of pictures.

I tried to get a good shot of Jack but the dogs had joy in their hearts and weren't particularly interested in striking a pose (except Vader, he's the husky version of Madonna and always looks at the camera). Bisoux (in the background) is doing some kind of canine yoga move in an attempt to engage Flin-Flon in a little play-time. Even with the dog antics, it's a great shot of Jack the dog wrangler.

Thankfully, the polar vortex went North for the weekend, which meant we could spend more than 15 minutes outside. We had friends up from Madison and since there were 10,000 people visiting the ice caves, we opted for a quieter and less crowded adventure into the woods and down to the river. As I skied into Charly's camp, the phrase 'timbered choir' popped into my consciousness. The pines, standing sentry over the canvas tent, were 'a blessing on this place' and I was at home among them.

The sound of the Sioux, moving along its snow-covered banks, was intoxicating. Winter has many, many beautiful attributes but it can be eerily quiet. It's a time of suspended animation and the muffled quiet that settles in becomes deafening in its silence. Water flowing from deep in the earth, into the Sioux, was a blessed interruption to the winter soundscape.

The rocks in the river sported snowy caps. 

A snowy face peering down from an evergreen perch.

Water, fluid or frozen, are kin on a molecular level— they co-exist and morph from one state to another at will.

The presence of the Divine can't be overstated when you drink water that's traveled through caverns, darkness and rock to a hillside on the banks of the Sioux River. It's the sacred birthplace of water that flows into Lake Superior and gratitude settled over me as I filled my cup.

Life continues, unimpressed with -50 degree wind chills and 115 inches of snow, at the springs.

A turtle, imagined in ice and born of spring-fed water, was suspended below one of the springs.

This patch of earth, where the Sioux mixes with water from the springs, is magic and the trees know it. I felt the unspoken but clear message that they are stewards of this place and there are faces, encased in bark, all along the river bank.

Guardians of the springs.

When life is reduced to its essential components, it's really very simple. And our midwinter adventure had it all: family, good friends, a warm fire, clean water, a canvas tent and a bunch of dogs. If we had a pot of cheese fondue, some good bread and a bottle of wine, I'm not sure we would have left Charly's camp above the springs of the Sioux. Serenity and magic, amidst the pines.