Wolf. Sideways blowing snow. Chicken enchiladas with spicy mole sauce.

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.

Snowy spruce

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.


About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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70 Responses to Wolf. Sideways blowing snow. Chicken enchiladas with spicy mole sauce.

  1. karlapr says:

    Beautiful. Makes me happy for winter.

  2. To see a wolf in the wild! You lucky duck.

  3. Stay warm and safe. I love your descriptions and am so jealous that you saw that wolf. I also want Mole right now, but it isn’t meant to be. Sigh.

  4. Susan Blake says:

    Hi Kathy,
    Hot peppers with Mexican food should help keep you warm! We have coyotes in this area – some have attacked small dogs (not mine). Hard to coexist with some of these critters in the city. I’d be happy enough if we had no snow here, though I know it’s coming eventually. So I’m wondering at what age I trashed SuzySnowflake? (hint: it’s been a long time! haha)

    • Kathy says:

      SuZen, many of the local folks here find in hard to co-exist with creatures, too. Some are for the culling of wolves to better keep small dogs safe. You will be happy to know that it’s *barely* snowing here today and that temps are supposed to be in the 40’s soon. So we’ll have to go through this slushy-icy-sloppy mess yet another time before everything freezes.

  5. Brenda Hardie says:

    Kathy, despite the difficulties of driving and walking in winter conditions, your story sounds heavenly. I can only sit here and dream about what it would be like to live in God’s country up there. ♥ My heart yearns for the solitude of life in the woods. And even though my knees would prevent me from doing all the work that is involved in living in the woods, it’s still my dream. ♥

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, I’m wondering if you would have felt the same when you were slopping through the freezing cold snow on the way to the restaurant. I was split in two. Part of me loved it and the other part definitively did not! Yes, it feels like it would be difficult without two good knees. We’ve certainly experienced that in the last couple of years.

  6. Winter has returned and your little vignettes remind me of both the cold and warmth of the season. I am sure the wolf is rolled up in the snow, warming himself as the snow falls around him.

    • Kathy says:

      Scott, I am sure that wolf is just fine. Curled up in the snow during the day, perhaps in a little indentation in the snow. At night out hunting deer and other little animals. Part of me loves this time of year–and the other part always wants to hibernate like a bear.

  7. “… concealed in plain sight.”

    I love this. I absolutely love this!

  8. john says:

    I have to start a log of all the things I learn from you. Today was one word and one Restaurant. I intentionally went off the beaten path today to see how my Prius would handle a snow covered road. I was too used to driving the Jeep 4×4. So based on what you said yesterday I went a little ways up the peninsula and cut inland. I did pretty well, but chickened out when I got to the “Pavement Ends Here” sign. I need to get a pickup for up here. Check book is telling me I have to wait.

    • Kathy says:

      But, John, what was the word you learned?? Glad your new Prius is handling the snow OK. I wouldn’t have gone past the pavement ends sign either. Was it still snowing sideways when you went “up da road”?

  9. Heather says:

    Ever since you mentioned you were going to the new restaurant, I have been craving Mexican. We had several favorite places when we lived in Georgia, and haven’t found a suitable replacement up here. I haven’t had dinner yet and the yearning is stronger than my desire for those chocolate crinkle cookies that are floating around my brain!
    Okay, now that I’m over that, can I join you in celebration of this lovely, freezing, scary, fun season? We ventured out for the first time in days and slogged through snow piles for photos. Whereas you avoided a wolf, I spied a soaring eagle 🙂
    Here’s hoping your winter turns out just how you wish and that Habaneros settles into business for a long time.

    • Kathy says:

      Really, Heather? Chocolate crinkle cookies? I owuld like one now. You may join me in the celebration of this contradictory season! Spying a soaring eagle is a most wonderful gift. I wonder what the eagle and the wolf would have thought of one another. Who would ponder the other as friend or food?

      • Heather says:

        I feel now is the time to come clean: Tony remembered a good Mexican place, and we fulfilled that craving *and* I made those crinkle cookies.
        As for the eagle and the wolf, I wonder if they wouldn’t share tea and ponder over their loneliness at the top o’ the food chain and how misunderstood they are – particularly the wolf. Maybe I’ll have them over for burritos and cookies?

        • Kathy says:

          I am sure they would share tea and ponder their misunderstood nature. Even the eagle, for do you recall they were almost extinct at one point as well? You have them over for burritos and cookies, Heather. I think I’ll keep the wolf out of our house, lol!

  10. Lori DiNardi says:

    Beautiful writing, Kathy. I especially love, “Shoes sink in wet snow, dampening socks, begging for the dignity of boots. One shivers.” I like the contrast of southern heat in the Nachos that taste like heaven. Something I’d call, “Oh, my God, good.” I’ll say hello to the birds for you when they arrive here in FL.

    • Kathy says:

      You say hello to the geese you see, maybe a week from Wednesday, shall we say? I am glad you enjoyed the writing. I am having a blast writing like this again.

  11. I’ve been creeping to and from town these days. I’m not sure, yet, whether my tires need to be replaced, whether the road crew is not yet on top of their game, or perhaps I’ve just forgotten what driving in the winter is like! Thanks, Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Yep, Cindy, I so relate to your creeping tale. That’s all I’ve been doing recently, too. How do they get cars over to your island? On boats? Inquiring minds want to know!

      • Our ferry boat hauls cars, trucks and – lately – even the Sysco truck for restaurant deliveries through the summer months. It’s not cheap – over one hundred dollars for a round trip for a car – and space is limited so reservations are necessary. My aunt keeps a car at the airport in Charlevoix for us to use when we go to the mainland. Many visitors rent vehicles here for just a day or two to see the whole island, and walk or bicycle around the downtown area for the rest of their visit. Our roads are very hard on automobiles, so that makes sense to me, but the boat is usually filled with cars all season long.

  12. dorannrule says:

    How I love your writing that reads almost like poetry, and leaves me feeling peaceful and grateful for tonight’s relatively balmy 20 degrees Farenheit. No snow in my part of Virginia yet, but we gather wood for the wood stove, and we have two fine Mexican restaurants nearby. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Actually, dorannrule, I do believe it’s about 28 degrees right now, so we’re not that far off, even if you do live in the south. 🙂 How nice that you have a wood stove. Don’t you love wood heat? We can’t imagine living without its exquisite warmth.

  13. P.j. grath says:

    No wolves here–only coyotes. Did not have Mexican food tonight but pizza. Don’t have as much snow as you have. But our power was out last Friday and again today, and we are certainly aware that it is winter Up North, even though from your perspective we are Down Under [the Bridge]! I do like the mix of tranquility and excitement in your world, Kathy. Nice!

    • Kathy says:

      Pamela, I swear “It” is lost somewhere between Northport and the U.P. The mailman brought a package of Stash Tea today and I told him to be on the lookout for another package. He told me it would be here tomorrow and winked. Should I believe him? Sorry to hear about your power outages. Thank you for enjoying that mix of tranquility and excitement in ordinary happenings.

  14. sybil says:

    Somehow a Mexican Restaurant in a winter wonderland is a terrific idea. A way to warm up in more ways than one.
    Driving on snowy roads can be so nervous-making, but boy were you rewarded. A wolf. Awesome !

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, yes, there ARE advantages to being in the relative wilderness and driving on snowy roads. Like seeing a wolf…or bear (not in winter) or maybe moose (usually in spring). Yep, coolio.

  15. Splendid description of the biting cold and the snow. The Mexica eatery will probably survive if the food is truly as good as your description.

    Even though it is dusty, dull, and devoid of blazing fall trees and fragrant evergreens, I think I shall remain happy that I live in “these here parts.” e had a “cold snap” last night. Someone said it got to 32 degrees. That is cold for me. I hate the summer heat and the winter cold. We here in Texas are never satisfied with the weatherW

    • Kathy says:

      Yvonne, I wonder if we people are EVER 100% satisfied with our weather? Come to think of it, are we ever 100% satisfied? I shall have to try more of this good Mexican restaurant’s foods to see if everything else lives up to the chicken enchilada moles. P.S. Did I ever show you this old blog about when we lived in Texas? https://upwoods.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/when-we-escaped-to-texas-and-then-escaped-back-to-the-upper-peninsula/

      • I,finished reading, with bated breath and amusement, your chp. 4? or whatever. Your account of coming to Texas and returing to upper Michigan was a terrific read. I could identify with some of it but I have lived almost none of it except the stifling heat and no wind. I can only imagine and probably could guess what part of Texas you happened upon.The boss used to be very common in some parts of Texas. It is all so white in some parts still and I hate the race thing. You would think that, even today these “snotty” people would get over it but they refuse to accept anything that is not white and that goes for all minorities.

        Kathy, you have such a gift for the funny- I can see why you have had over 200,000 hits or whatever these things are called.

        Just to let your readers know- Texas has been invaded by many retired or semi-retired people. Lots from the north and California. The hill country is quite popular as well as the coast. Where I live the taxes are considered low and even this little town or maybe its a city has people moving here to escape the cold or the living among wall to wall people.

        As my grandmother used to say, “there is a lid that fits every pot.” This is applicable to where you live, how you find a life partner, and what you do for a living. And, all places are not for all people.

        I can not imagine moving anywhere. I’ve lived within 25 miles of where I grew up all of my adult life and in the same house for 40 plus years. I am a stick in the mud.

        PS. Thank you for including me in your blog roll. I am honored.

        • Kathy says:

          I don’t believe you are a stick in the mud, Yvonne. You are settling deep on your Texas earth to learn what you must in this lifetime. I am glad you enjoyed the humor in the blog. Too bad I’m not in a humorous-writing time here now on Lake Superior Spirit. Am kind of getting into writing as a Presence-filled exercise now. Although, gosh darn, humor can arise in Presence, can’t it? **smiling** Have a good day! I’m off to work.

  16. Gillian says:

    You must have been thrilled to see the wolf! As for the geese, we still have plenty here in Ottawa. They’ll stay another month or so, until the Ottawa River freezes or the farm fields become too thick with snow to forage. Most of them don’t go as far as Florida; they’re happy to have any open water no matter the temperature. I can usually find one or two throughout our bitter Canadian winters.

    • Kathy says:

      Gillian, I was thrilled to see the wolf. At first I wondered if it was a coyote, but it was stockier and looked different. We do sometimes have a few geese that stay on as well. But it seems rare. Do you think many geese stop in, say, Kentucky and Tennessee and Arkansas? I really hadn’t contemplated that before.

      • Gillian says:

        Hi Kathy! I just checked eBird and it looks like large numbers of geese are found in those states throughout the year, though smaller numbers are reported during the summer. However I don’t know if that’s saying much as Ontario shows large numbers year-round as well, with smaller numbers in February (when all our lakes/rivers are frozen) and June (when most are sitting on nests) and larger numbers in early spring/early fall! I guess the best way to find out is to ask any birder/blogger friends who live there!

        • Kathy says:

          I am smiling that you took the time to look this up. You are really a birder, aren’t you? I know who to direct any questions…

          • Gillian says:

            Yep, I’m a real “bird nerd” and I also suffer from a healthy dose of curiosity! Plus I love the fact that there are so many neat birding sites online like eBird.

            I was just thinking today that I haven’t seen or heard any Canada Geese flying over my neighbourhood in a few days….I’m guessing that the ponds have frozen over and that they’ve probably moved on.

  17. lucindalines says:

    Such beautiful writing. So poetic. It would be so fun to pull all of the imagery and literary devices from it with a class of students, but then again, it is so much better just to enjoy it. Love your writing.

  18. My teeth are almost chattering, because I can practically feel the cold from reading your blog post. And that Mexican food sounds tasty!

  19. Susan Derozier says:

    Kathy -Once again your beautiful writing awakens bone memory in me of winters in the north and all that goes with them. Do you ever wonder if all our little creatures wonder at us? Do they ask themselves what happens within those boxes(houses) we enter…just as we wonder at what takes place in the brush? I thank you for bringing me into the scene with you. November was always my favorite time at our cottage when nature quieted down and creatures prepared in the woods. You make me taste and feel it all again. Thank you!

    • Kathy says:

      I like how you called it “bone memory”, Susan. That is the best kind of memory, isn’t it? I wonder, too, what the creatures think. Or do they just accept “what is” without the pondering nature of humans? November is an awesome month. But, then, so is December as it gets darker and darker and darker and our inner light must shine brighter.

  20. The writing here is stunning, my friend. Simply stunning! The lyrical quality of your prose brings tears to my eyes, Kathy!

  21. lisaspiral says:

    You make me happy for winter. I miss snow (now that I’ve got a contract to have my driveway shoveled).

  22. debyemm says:

    You say “Chicken enchiladas with spicy mole sauce” and I am HERE !! I grew up on the Mexican border. We always had Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas (not the same as your spicy rich brown sauce) as a treat on Christmas Eve.

    I love Mole (what you are describing) so much that we had it as one of the dishes at our post-wedding feast, after my husband and I married. I used to keep a jar of Dona Maria’s Mole Sauce in my cabinet. That is the best, most authentic brand. It is a concentrate and you just add chicken broth to thin it to the desired consistency. Mole sauce is a kind of Mexican gravy made with chiles, nuts, spices, chocolate and seasonings.

    We have a favorite Mexican restaurant these days but it is 40 mins north of us, so we only go there occasionally. Not long ago, I ordered their Chicken & Mole; and it was the juiciest, most succulent Chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Of course, the Mole was perfect too.

    • Kathy says:

      Man, Deb, you’ve made me lick my lips and ponder returning to that Mexican restaurant in the near future! I know very little of moles, but my mouth waters in the contemplation of it all. Please pass the Dona Maria’s. 🙂

  23. Stacy says:

    I love this post – you take us down the road of your days and we wind up with a question that we have always asked. I like your answer to that question. ❤

  24. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    “You wonder where the wolf sleeps,” indeed. I think about that quite often, really – the squirrels, the blue jays, the snapping turtles… I certainly hope your Mexican restaurant is a going concern, too.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, yes, Sid, once we get started we’ll never quit wondering about those animal’s sleeping habits. And eating habits. And social habits. Why, a person should become a biologist and study all this! 🙂

      • Kathy says:

        It IS a biologist that studies animals, isn’t it? Or does a biologist just study plants? I am revealing my ignorance. Probably knew the answer in younger years.

  25. Milwaukee is hitting a record long stretch of days without snow (nothing since last March). I may have to get my snow vicariously through your blog…

    • Kathy says:

      Inger, are you in Milwaukee? You probably mentioned that before. I remember getting lost in Milwaukee a few years ago…not a fun experience in some of those downtown neighborhoods. All our snow is melting the next couple of days. It’s suppose to be 50 degrees tomorrow!

  26. Robin says:

    I enjoyed every scrumptious word and image of this post. What a blessing that wolf came by for a brief visit. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, thank you for nudging me backwards to read this again. I liked writing in this style; this felt good. It was a lovely wolf blessing, so quickly forgotten. The other day a white weasel scampered atop the woodpile. It was gone so quickly. Who knows if it was even a weasel? That’s our best guess. Thank you for your scrumptious comment.

  27. I love the way you’ve described your experiences over those three days. 🙂

    I think your Mexican restaurant will survive just fine. It is a way for northern folks to get a taste of the south without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a vacation! When I went to school in Grand Forks more than 30 years ago, there was a place called the Red Pepper where we used to order tacos, burritos, etc. It’s still in business, to this day. One thing I have never heard of before is ‘mole sauce’. It conjures up some unpleasant images of catching moles and cooking them into a sauce! 🙂

    As for the snow and cold, I’ve lived further north than you all my life and I still wonder why I put up with the weather every winter. My brother left for the west coast the same year I got married and has rarely ventured home because of the cold and snow. For me, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you~~this is one of the posts I like the most (that I’ve written lately). Mostly I remember the calm peaceful feeling I had when writing it. Smiling thinking of your mole images! How funny! Mole sauce is pronounced mole-ay (as in hay) in Spanish so I haven’t related it to the little furry creature–yet. Barry does NOT like mole sauce. Glad to hear the Red Pepper survived. That is hopeful for our new Mexican restaurant. Ole!

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