On the last day of 2021, we woke to hills transformed into gigantic piles of soft cotton. The snow in the meadow covered all but the tips of tall yellow grasses. Even under cloudy skies, a sunny glow suffused the meadow. The husband and I had arrived early for our New Year’s cabin retreat. We satisfied a dream–to get snowed in with our cross-country skis. It was a blissful get-away, even if one of us did go a little crazy. It wasn’t him.
On New Year’s morning, I woke to a Covid exposure notification on my phone. Of course, I said to myself, that scratchy throat, I knew it! A home test was negative, and my throat settled down, but a too-familiar Covid anxiety squeezed my cranium. Triple-vaccinated, I wasn’t worried; I was just in the mood to not get sick. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool not to get Covid during this vertical wave, this tsunami of contagion? When we texted our friends who had breakthrough cases, none of them wrote back, Hey, this is fun, you should try it!
We had hoped for a road trip to Arizona, but mean Mother Omicron shook her finger at us: “Oh, no you don’t!” A day at a hot spring pool also felt risky, so forget that. Instead, we wrote and we read. We slept hard, watched shooting stars before dawn, and skied. Even four days of great skiing, though, only ate seven and half hours.
First cheerfully, then with an edge of disagreement, we discussed what animals may have left the distorted tracks around the cabin and in the woods. Coyotes, he said, and I said moose. He guessed coyote again. The strangest prints turned out to be from snow blobs that had fallen off of the bare branches. Back in the house, I start pacing.
On day five, running low on fresh food and drinking water, we headed to Prather’s market, commercial hub of Fairplay. The store was full of people, none of them masked. Wide-eyed, we snagged some frozen spinach and only a few gallons of drinking water, which quickly ran low. I stepped in and out with a big pot and scooped up snow to melt on the heat stove. I was glad to have this little chore–it greatly expanded my pacing route.
I settled down with a book, and the husband immediately walked down the stairs just to say, Oh, it’s chilly down here. Half an hour later, I got restless again and found him. It’s really warm up here, I say. We did this again and again.
One day, we chatted outside with a neighbor for a few minutes. I found myself wanting to cling to his arm, to ask, Must you go? Marrying and keeping one favorite person is a great thing, but, honey, I think we might need to start talking to other people.
A howling wind storm scoured the snow into hard drifts on our driveway. We ate quinoa for lunch, followed by oatmeal for dinner. I fantasized about sushi, about traffic jams and air pollution, while my introverted sweetie got happier and happier. I’m never leaving, he intoned as he gazed at the winter sky, his face serene. He said this every day. Every. Single. Day.
The gusts calmed. I cleared the driveway and escaped over Hoosier Pass to Arapahoe Basin for a downhill ski day. After a few runs, I sat at picnic table in the sun and giggled at a sweet email from a writer friend.
Now you have to tell me what’s so funny, came an unfamiliar voice from the far corner of the table. A conversation with a stranger! Do I remember how to do this? I asked him where he’s from, and he asked for music recommendations in Denver. I haven’t been out to music in a really long time, I said. I wonder why? He parried back, and we laughed together.
After a few minutes, I stood up, my sandwich finished, and said It’s been lovely talking with you. It really was lovely. I took a few fresh stories back for our last night at the cabin, suddenly full of hope for 2022.