In C.S. Lewis's novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the magical country of Narnia is ruled by a cruel White Witch who makes it always winter in the land. Always winter and never Christmas. The past few months there have been times when I wondered if I'd moved to Yellowstone or moved to Narnia. It was my first Christmas alone and I worked through both Christmas and New Year's so I felt that Christmas never really came as it always has in the past.
But in the last month I've finally started to feel more at home. I know the names of most of the mountains and we are beginning to get acquainted. I've also learned the names of my neighbors and I like them too. In the past week it has become very apparent that Aslan is coming and that even here, winter cannot last forever. I woke a few days ago to a new sound: small birds talking to each other from my lilac bush. They called to the world and it is beginning to answer. There is a change in the air: the wind blows with a hint of warmth and the sun's rays are stronger. The birds and I aren't the only ones to have noticed. Bear tracks were seen on the interior of Yellowstone on March 1. Skiing while carrying bear spray is a first for me.
As the snow melts and the earth appears like blocks in a snow-mud patchwork quilt, the bison search the ground for available grass. Their ribs and hips show prominently. It has been a difficult winter for my hoofed friends. I've seen animals sleeping right on the road rather than spend valuable energy moving through deep snow.
But now, there seems to be hope again. The elk have come out from the trees where they spent much of the past month and are seen on every windblown slope. It is good to see the animals on their feet and with their heads down eating again.
It is strange to see bare pavement and soil. The snow that is left has lost its powdery consistency and is developing a hard crust. There are potholes everywhere I look. Road crews are out filling them one by one. There are so many I doubt they can finish before Labor Day. There are no wildflowers or lilies peeking shyly through the snow. But there is lots, and lots of mud everywhere. In fact, a road was closed today not due top snow but because of mud. The Yellowstone River was blue this morning as I walked to work, but walking home it looked like chocolate milk because of the snow-melt carrying sediment into the water.
These changes translate into the human world in different ways. Unlike the bison, my diet hasn't changed. But as their winter coats start to look a little ragged I change to a lighter jacket. My long underwear hasn't been worn in a week. The park hotels have closed; spring comes quietly here. I find myself in my office sorting through a three month high pile of papers. But I look outside at the wind and sun and think to myself, "This would be a great day for a run." Instead, I keep skiing, but I'm the only one out now. With the warmer temperature I quickly get too hot. Soon I'm left skiing with a pack full of clothes and my skin soaking up the sun it hasn't seen in a long time.