It’s been a strange winter in Portland. I can’t quite get a grip on it. It was mild all through January, and then it was as if a switch flipped and we plunged into the depths of a terrible kind of cold. Not the cloudy, rainy gray we’re used to, but frigid blue and icy. It seems like once a week or so it will start to snow, sputtering out from what seconds before was a clear sky. It doesn’t last, the ground is still too warm for it to really amount to anything. But it feels odd to look out the window and notice snowflakes spinning crazily to earth, like I’ve been transported to a different country.
My uncle, the other day on our way up the mountain, theorized that winter had just shifted. We were driving up to snowshoe an area I’d been to a few weeks earlier, where I wore a t-shirt and sunglasses. He thought fall now extends into early December, and winter doesn’t pick up steam until February. Summer doesn’t come until June or July. It sort of makes sense, but all these cold snap snow days still confuse me. My internal clock can’t seem to recalibrate.
But I was grateful for all the snow when we got to the sno-park, because it was quiet and the snow deliciously deep. The new powder was many feet thick, and what weeks before had been a wide open glacier-like expanse was now a dense winter wonderland. We mostly stayed to the trail that a few intrepid skiers and snowshoers had beat down before us, but couldn’t resist straying off into the really deep stuff every now and then. When the dogs went out into it we joked that they looked like the Loch Ness monster—just their heads barely peeking out from the top of the snow. The treeline seemed etched into the clouded white of the sky, stark against the backdrop of snow. We never saw the peak of Hood, but could feel its presence looming as we made our way up and back down the valley.
I don’t know if I’ll get used to the snow, or if we’ll have another winter like this one. Climate change makes me feel unsteady, concerned because I cannot trust what I have always known to be true from the land I love so much. But that day I was glad for the depth of the winter, happy to see it laid on thick.