• Emily

"...and Miles to Go before I Sleep."

Updated: Mar 24, 2021


snow on the hills

For the past few years, the midwinter snows have come layered upon the first green of spring. Just when we've begun to think that spring has truly arrived, the snow finally descends. As much as it makes the daily routine of feed, water, milking, and tending more difficult, it also brings an extra measure of grace and beauty to the hills that surround us.

snow on the hills

Like a white crown on the ridges and icy lace on the pines, the snow opens our eyes again to the beauty of this place and the privilege it is to live in these mountains. As I hike up frozen hills, I am reminded time and again of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

snow falling on the road and oak trees

snow falling in the oak forest

The snowy fields are traced with prints of the wild creatures as they search for food and shelter. Elk paw through soft powder, searching for acorns from last fall. Deer and coyotes, bobcats and raccoons leave a record of their coming and going as they crisscross the white expanse.

view over a snowy field to the mountains behind

The snow reminds me of a blanket, lining every oak branch and fencepost, clinging to roofs, roads, and bark. It silences the usual noises of the valley, muffling the barking of dogs and crowing of roosters. The cars roll by slowly and quietly. Neighbors stay home, waiting for the weather to clear.

snow mounded on the fence railing

snowflakes cling to the tree bark

As Sam and I carry food and water to the animals, the only sounds that stand out are the crunch of our steps in the soft white drifts and the clinking of the cow's halters against the feed bunk. Somehow that bright jingling of chains cuts through the silence and carries across the otherwise still air. Again, I am reminded of Frost's words:

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

snow on the fences, barns, and milking parlor

Our hikes are shorter during these days, challenging endurance and balance as we plow through deep drifts or skid down powdery slopes. Our dogs bound across the snow with obvious delight, ever eager to go on. Even as the sun lowers on the horizon, they are hesitant to turn back. But for the hiker, the sun's decent is a sign to return to the valley--these drifts are dangerous in the dark, and there are chores yet to be done. Before I turn back, I often pause atop the bluffs, taking a moment to breathe in the peace that the landscape offers. I'm reminded of the gifts given in each passing season; frozen times of the year--and of the heart--always bring great beauty for those who will receive it.

Necessity interrupts my reverie and turns my steps homeward. Work to be done, fingers to be warmed, a warm dinner waiting in Kindra's kitchen down below. Time to head home.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

sunset behind the pines on the ridge

sunset behind the snowy hilltop


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