December 24, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin (1819-1900)

November 10,1999

Yesterday we had 8 inches of snow. Despite the winter solstice being about two weeks away, there is no doubt that winter has arrived. The air temperature this morning was 29 degrees F. The pre-dawn eastern sky, as it usually is at this time of year, was exquisite, with pinkish purple clouds that changed color and shape by the minute.

After breakfast I put on my down parka and snow pack boots and started walking down my mountain as I usually do. I walk a mile down and, since I haven't figured out how to avoid it, a mile back up.

The trees are covered with snow, and shine in the sunlight. The air is crisp and fresh and pure. Someone once said that snow covers up the sins of the world. Here there are no sins to cover up other than my road, which is a very venial sin. The trees and wildlife are as they have always been except for the addition of me, my wife Lu and our cat. I have taken about a quarter of an acre for my house and pond, which is now frozen. The other 22 acres are as they have always been. I doubt that any writer could describe the exquisite beauty that I now contemplate. A superb painter might attempt to capture it, and a color photo might give a viewer a bare taste of it. Nothing is like the real thing.

For most of my life I lived in cities, since my work was in a city and I had to earn a living. The beginning of winter used to depress me. At the age of 40 I lived in Salt Lake City, so I decided to try skiing. That cured my pre-winter depression. I would look forward to that start of skiing season. I used to ski two half days a week on Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday. The beauty of Salt Lake City is that you are half an hour's drive from the ski slopes. In a short time, my children all learned to ski circles around me. When we skied as a family, the kids would join my wife and I for one courtesy run down an intermediate slope, after which it was, "See you at the lodge at....." and they were off. Lu and I would enjoy a leisurely ski.

After 10 years in Salt Lake, we moved to California. The first time that we skied the Sierras, it was great. The second time, it took 10 hours to go from the San Francisco Bay area to the ski resort. That did it for me. Ten hours of stop and go traffic is not my idea of fun. At age 60 I went to visit some of my children in Salt Lake. I took my skis and spent my last afternoon on the slopes at the Alta resort. Then I hung my skis up for good. I still miss it, but the only way that I could ski at my age would be if I did it all of the time. At old age, muscles do not retain their tone as they did in youth and middle age.

It is an unusual day in another respect. I am pain free; not even a little ache. Not a single muscle or joint feels any pain; not even a little one. I am in pretty good health for an old man. Still I usually have a small ache somewhere, and sometimes it is a large ache. I have heard the expression "no pain, no gain." I don't understand what gain could possibly be worth pain.

By the time I am almost home, the snow on the highest fir trees has started to melt and the drops of water glisten like tiny jewels in the sunlight. I stop and contemplate its evanescent beauty. By late afternoon all of the snow in the trees will be gone. I enjoy it while I can. I also enjoy the warm sunshine. Life can be truly beautiful.

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