Thursday, January 10, 2008

Snow day. For now.


Damn cold, near 0 this morning. And my yard and the foothills surrounding town are all shrouded in toga-white sheets of deep snow.

This is a real winter in the Four Corners, particularly here in the Southern San Juans, where the snowpack for the San Juan and Animas river drainages continues to climb to near 150 percent of normal. Damn-near very day for the past week I've had to shovel, and every time we've skied at Purgatory this season has been a powder day. This, after upwards of a decade of mostly below-average snow years. This, after early meteorological prognostications of a dry winter -- and which was coming true, with the snowpack at zero, up until early December.

One of the beauties of life in the Four Corners -- and, again, particularly squatting here on the flanks of the southern San Juans, perched on the upper edge of the Colorado Plateau -- is the range of, not just weather we get to experience, but actual climate we are exposed to. Of complete ecologies that we inhabit at varying times.

Durango, for example, is not classifiable. Sometimes it's a desert town -- for days, weeks, months, or even years at whack it can be dry and hot, or dry and cold. The air cracks the skin and rasps the throat, and water is a precious as the gold that once was channeled through here. The shale-and-dirt landscape blows away in a stiff breeze, and the plants brown and shrivel and hunker down for better, wetter times.

Sometimes, though, it's a mountain town, with rich, crisp air that feels like it funneled right down from the peaks rising upstream above the Animas River. Mountain-forged rainclouds surge over and dump gully-fulls of flood water, or snow piles up in the neighborhoods like any classic Rocky Mountain ski town. The hillsides green up, or the snowfall piles up. And these changes can happen like the flick of some grand and erratic celestial wall switch, the moody impossible to predict. Like this year: Cool, damp spring; hot, dry early summer; cool-again, rain-filled late summer; clear-sky, parched fall; and now, snow-buried, high-country-chilled winter.

It's what we love about it here. "Change of seasons," my ass! We get our climate on constant shuffle -- God's iPod. And you never know what's going to come next. A little desert, anyone? Or shall we have a mountain day?

Today we live in a mountain town. And we are blessed.

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