01 August, 2012
1 August 2012
Both Einar and Liz were surprised at the speed with which the new snow began melting. Rather than turning colder after the storm as both were used to seeing, temperatures instead warmed steadily as it moved out that afternoon, and soon the sound of snapping, breaking branches was replaced by an increasing chorus of melting and dripping as snow softened and ran from evergreen boughs. Einar shifted uneasily at the sound of it, seasons changing, and far earlier than he’d anticipated. Wondered for a moment if he might have lost track of a significant amount of time at some point--weeks, it would have to be--but a quick look at the pages where Liz kept her calendar confirmed that he had not. Scanning the pages, he smiled. In addition to recording each day’s, she had been keeping notes on Will’s growth, noting his eating habits and the times when he’d first noticeably followed things with his eyes--awfully early, it seemed to Einar, and he’d noted the same thing about the child--rolled from one side to the other and begun using his hands to grab for things…good that she’s keeping track of all this. Will be awfully interesting to look back at it later, especially with the time seeming to go by so quickly right now…
Not so good, far as he was concerned, was the fact that she’d been recording other things, too. It was one thing to keep track of an infant’s eating patterns, but the next page in the little notebook contained similar data about him, dates and amounts and there were other things, too, all the little incidents he thought he’d been concealing from her, vital signs, a clear pattern of decline and approaching death spelled out there in black and white and impossible to brush aside as he was so used to doing. That got him riled up alright, or would have, had not Liz glanced his direction just then, at which he guiltily shut the little notebook and hurried it back to its appointed place on the shelf, hoping she hadn’t noticed his looking beyond the calendar pages. He sure didn’t want to talk about the things she had recorded there, was a bit taken aback, himself, at their implications. Figured he’d better be getting a lot more serious about making sure Liz and the little one were provided for, long-term. The land was pretty good at doing that, the creatures and plants Liz had come to know so well in her time up there, and he was confident in her ability to provide for the two of them, should circumstances require. That was, so long as nothing changed with the land and it kept providing. Which was, at the root of it, why the warming of recent days had him so uneasy. Seemed to be a harbinger of things to come, and it took his mind only moment to project a full picture, early spring, dry summer, world looking pretty bleak. Liz was staring at him, seeming to wait for him to speak. So he did.
“If this thaw keeps up, we may be looking at a real early spring up here. Snow leaving early.”
“It’s looking that way, isn’t it? Might be a good thing for us, give us more time to prepare for next winter, and really, we can move a lot more freely when there’s not so much snow on the ground for us to worry about leaving tracks in, anyway.”
He nodded, agreeing but still uneasy. The usual pattern of things was appearing more and more to be off, early and unusual summer coming, and while this would bring its distinct advantages, it could spell trouble for them, as well. “Could mean a drought, warming up so early like this. Seems that’s sometimes what happens, and really, we’ve not had the amount of snow I would have expected, over the last month or so. Keeps snowing, but we should really be piling on the feet right now, even more than we were earlier in the winter, and we’re not. If it keeps up this way, we might be looking at failures in some of the berry crops, chokecherry, serviceberry, less for the deer and elk to eat, the sheep, which would drive them down even lower into the river valleys after water and forage…could really have an impact on our food supply for the summer.”
“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. There’s still plenty of time for the snow level to come up.”
“Yes, most years that would be true. But I don’t think it will. Not this time. Getting a real strange feeling about things.”
“Our food supply is still doing really well right now…mostly because you don’t eat, and that’s got to change…but at least we have a head start if things turn out like you’re thinking.”
“We’ve got to be turning more of that stuff into jerky so it’ll keep after the thaw comes. And be doing all we can to add to the stock, too. Replace what we eat, and then some, whenever we can. It’s weather anomalies like this that drive little tribes like ours to migrate, move, go places where they shouldn’t go in their search for food, and for us that’s pretty much anyplace but here. You know what happens when we spend too much time down in the river valleys. We get seen--or see people. Can’t be risking that. We got to find a way to stay up high away from everyone, if we want this to go on working. Especially with Will finding his voice and starting to move more, crawl, walk eventually…we mustn’t allow ourselves to be sent into exile by this thing, or it’s all over!”
“Einar, Einar,” she sat down beside him, could feel the tension when she put a hand on his arm and wondered what had got into him. “It’s months away, all of it. Give it some time. See if more snow comes. Maybe things won’t be so bad as you’re thinking.”
He took a breath, managed a slight smile. “Right. Probably not. I just see Will growing, doing so well, and I want to make sure things go alright for him if I’m not…” He looked away, couldn’t finish, but she understood, shook her head.
“You will. We will. We’ll get through it, whatever comes. All of us. We’ll find ways. We’ll start a batch of jerky today, in just a little while. Get all that meat dried, like you said.”
“Yes. And soon, got to deal with the traps I left down on the river. Spend some time down there if we can, take as many beaver and muskrat as come our way and then we’ll have that meat and fur to put away, too.”