In case you haven’t noticed, it is winter. At least, it is winter here in the northern Midwest, where there is a foot of snow on the ground and today’s temperature topped out at somewhere between frigid and arctic. So cold was it today that my weatherbug forecast widget gave up on merely depicting a shining sun or a fluffy white cloud and instead displayed an igloo.
AJ was feeling somewhat better today, but still sick enough that he was not crushed about not being able to attend the first day of basketball camp this morning. We played a lot of Clue and watched a lot of Spongebob. We’re hoping he’ll be able to go to camp tomorrow.
I spent most of the day doing laundry and more laundry, in part the result of AJ’s illness, in part the result of departed house guests. I finally got out for a walk this afternoon, bundled up to my eyeballs. I walked around the barn, where the snowdrifts were so high that my boots, the ones that come up to my knees and are lined in what appears to be the skin of a dead muppet, were no match for them. I headed back to the road and down by the ponds where a mob of ducks were noisily fighting over some corn that someone had scattered on the finger of land between the first two ponds, the snow tamped flat by their orange feet. I decided to walk around the loop on the nature trail. It was quiet when I walked in from the road side, so as not to disturb the ducks, who appeared to be disturbed enough already. I took the lefthand path, crossing the footbridge and heading into a narrow tunnel of snow-laden trees. This part of the trail at this time of year looks exactly as I imagined it would look if I were to step out the back of a wardrobe and suddenly find myself in Narnia. Everything but the lamp post. Even the prints of deer hooves in the snow suggest that a satyr might be lurking nearby. I followed the trail around the top of the circle and walked over the rickety bridge spanning the narrow ravine and back toward the ponds. As I got closer to the edge of the forest, I could see three boys — big boys, high school age maybe. They had plopped themselves down in front of the bridge over the stream that connects the first two ponds. They appeared to be talking. All of a sudden, the three of them fell back into the snow and started to roll. Powdery snow sifted up from the ground and sparkled in the sunlight. They were laughing. It looked like a moment of pure joy. Then one of them saw me coming and came up sputtering. Immediately, they dusted themselves off and assumed slump-shouldered positions of ennui just as I exited the woods. “Hi!” I said as I walked by, because random greeting is the culture of my neighborhood and because I pretty much had to trip over them to get over the bridge to the path home and it seemed rude not to acknowledge their presence, even as they did everything within their power to avoid meeting my gaze. “Hey,” they grunted as if nothing had happened.
Teenaged boys have not become any less mysterious to me since high school. Maybe someday AJ will be able to enlighten me. But probably he won’t want to. Still, if this is what they do when grownups aren’t around, they can’t be all bad.