I grew up in the city and many aspects of life in the mountains remain a novelty to me. Why just last night, as my mother and I soaked in her hot tub and studied the night sky, I could not help but become a tad bit anxious every time I heard the rustling of leaves or the snapping of branches. Is it a bear? I wondered looking over my shoulder then at my mother for a sign of anxiety or alarm. She seemed cool as a cucumber though, so I did all that I could to extinguish my worries and enjoy the evening. “ I used to be worried about having a run in with a bear out here, but this time of year there’s no reason to worry” she said having read my mind. “ Why don’t you have to worry anymore?” I asked, my previous concerns reawakened. “Well by this time of the year all the bears are in hibernation.” I leaned back in the hot tub and giggled a bit at my own urban foolishness. The frosty December wind grazed the top of the scalding water and created a steamy fog through which we observed the sky so full of stars.
I have been visiting my mother upstate for about ten years now, and still my visits up here always turn into mini adventures. Going for a jog in Prospect Park I may have a run in with a pesky squirrel, but up here its wild turkeys and deer - yes, I am afraid of deer. They may seem like docile creatures, but when faced with the threat of a NYC jogger I wonder if any of them would have any qualms with skewering me with their antlers.
To me, stacking firewood is a pleasurable task that holds an almost rustic charm. To my mother it is just one more dreadful chore and so every fall I try and make it a habit to help her complete the job. This year we stacked together, vigorously attacking the messy pile of gnarly wood all the while Alma, my mother’s husky, howled for attention. We were not to play with her until the job was complete and so, feeling wrongfully neglected, Alma hopped up on her chair and put her back to the both of us.
As we worked I listened to the mellow symphony of winter, naked trees clanked up against one another, the barn let out a sad moan with every gust of frosty wind. It was then that I heard the noise. It was some sort of a guttural cry off in the distance that grew increasingly louder. There was a pack of animals headed in our direction, what kind, I had no idea. “Mom do you hear that?” I asked. “What? Hear what? I don’t hear anything.” She said slightly annoyed that I woke her from her task driven meditation. It was a freakish sound and hard for me to identify, not being accustomed to such noises. “You don’t have wolves up here, do you?” I asked growing more nervous as the cries seemed closer than ever. I looked around in all directions half expecting to see some kind of awkward beast – I was now certain that we were goners - but all I found were forest trees brittle with frost. I looked up to the heavens hoping for an answer and an answer I received. Geese. The crying noises were a flock of geese headed south for the winter and as I listened closer their cries took on new meaning, “fxxking cold” it sounded like ‘fxxking cold, fxxking cold” they squawked as they passed over head. I could not help but agree with them, it was awfully cold. Again, I laughed at my cluelessness and thought, if I had to choose one way to go, it would be being eaten by a bear in a hot tub as opposed to being attacked by a flock of geese while stacking wood, or charged by a killer deer while jogging.
Having finished the firewood, my mother and I took a rest before getting to work on yet another scrumptious vegetarian dinner, Everything But The Kitchen Sink Pasta, with roasted carrots, parsnip, tomatoes, kale, yellow peppers , walnuts, and Parmesan cheese.