Monday. Brown-furred wolf runs south to north in front of my car. His legs pump, his haunches strain. Masterful, he sprints, his legs sure, not slipping and skidding like those long skinny-legged deer who sometimes fall and splay all four legs as they attempt to gain traction on ice. Solid, purposeful, the wolf crosses snow-covered asphalt, his eyes staring straight ahead, almost oblivious to the barreling car. He darts into the woods, immediately in a grove of evergreens, concealed in plain sight.
Tuesday. It’s not snowing–much–in Baraga County, although five to six inches cover animal tracks. We’re not in Baraga County anymore, though. We’re up in the Copper Country, the place they call the Snow Belt. It’s snowing sideways, wind whipping icy pellets against face and bare hands. Shoes sink in wet snow, dampening socks, begging for the dignity of boots. One shivers. One shivers and remembers what winter feels like.
Inside the newly opened Mexican restaurant our clothes almost steam. Tortillas steam in the kitchen. They call this place “Habeneros” like we’re in the hot south, like we’re biting into deep green hot lean peppers and sweating, like we’re not escapees from the swirling snow outside the fancy glass windows.
I order chicken enchiladas with mole sauce. The corn tortillas arrive smothered in a spicy rich brown sauce, reminiscent of chocolate except it tastes so velvet, so savory. Mango salsa sings cha-cha-cha to frozen taste buds. Each bite tastes like heaven, I swear, to my nacho-munching husband. He raises an eyebrow at such enthusiasm.
Later Tuesday. Inching the car down the snow-slick road. Slushy sloppy ice squashes beneath tires. You avoid swerving, sliding, if at all possible. You creep. Your car spins on snow for a half second, then obediently straightens. You opt not to climb steep hills. You drive a mile out-of-the-way in order to avoid angled roads where brakes refuse to stop. Your feet feel cold. Yes, it’s winter in the Upper Peninsula. You wonder why you’ve lived here for more than thirty years. The college students wander in groups and laugh. Many seem oblivious to the snow. One woman wears crop pants outside the bank’s ATM.
You sip jasmine tea in the coffee shop as steam rises.
Wednesday – A flock of geese form an awkward uneven “V” formation, heading south. All their cronies sunbathe in Florida and Louisiana and Mexico already. Did they imagine an eternal summer? Why did they linger on that northern Canadian lake, enjoying the last rays of autumn sunshine?
You wonder where the wolf sleeps. You wonder whether the Mexican restaurant will survive here in the north. You wonder when the geese will alight in the Gulf. You wonder how this winter will wear itself upon the shores of Lake Superior.
You take another sip of tea and marvel at this world of white, the ever-changing mystery of it all, the unexpectedness always arising the way no answers present themselves except in the next sacred moment.