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Lange: Keeping Warm

The wind that blew away the last snowstorm died during the afternoon. And as the sun sank into the hemlocks, the dog and I walked through the woods in the deepening cold.

I could tell she was eager to get home – raising one foot after another off the snow – then running ahead of me to jump onto the hall settle to have her sweater taken off and get her treat.

There's something inexpressibly luxurious about coming back to a warm home at the beginning of a deep cold snap in the dark, long nights of mid-winter. The heat's on, which means the electricity is, too. I hang up my tuque and jacket, set my boots on the mat by the door, and stow my gloves on the shelf in the closet.

The fresh snow on the roof and around the foundation seals the place up like a thermos bottle. It's very quiet inside. A couple of chunks of dry maple in the parlor stove, and I settle down in my chair by the window with the mail and a crossword puzzle. To keep off any chill, I lay a fleece throw across my knees, and right away the dog jumps into my lap to help me with the puzzle. I'm all she's got here, and she's all I've got, so we do it together as best we can.

It's an almost guilty pleasure to be as snug as a hobbit in his hole when all the other creatures are making the best of it out there in that cold. It's some consolation that the deer have enough snow to make their beds; and I'll fill up the bird feeder in the morning. Not much more I can do for 'em.

We have a sort of Currier & Ives image of northern New England, those of us who've settled here for one reason or another. Now and then it materializes. I meet it in a union suit, heavy socks, and lined leather mittens. In respect of my age and fragility, I've screwed steel studs into my boot soles and carry a spiked cane when we go out. My kids insist I also take a cell phone.

I read a bit in a small circle of light with the dog's head three inches from my left elbow. In a few minutes I'll let her out one last time, feed the wood boiler, and doze off hoping our fellow creatures are set for the night.

Willem Lange is a retired remodeling contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in East Montpelier, Vermont.
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