Daylight. It had seemed long in coming and, having come, did not as usual announce its presence by leaking in through various tiny cracks and here and there around the doorframe. Silent, sign-less, it crept over the world, Einar only aware of its presence when finally he stirred himself from his post beside the water barrel and crawled out through the tunnel for a breath of fresh air. The air which met him was fresh, alright, fresh, freezing and so full of driven snow that he coughed at the first breath, covering his mouth and nose with an arm and squinting into the greatly diffused half-light of a very stormy morning. It was then that he saw the reason for their little cabin seeming so well sealed that morning. The snow, blowing presumably all through the night, had plastered itself against tree trunk, rock face and, he knew even without feeling his way around to the front of the structure to look, cabin face as well, a thick layer of hard-driven, icy snow particles which would certainly have proven an effective seal against both daylight and the further intrusion of the wind.
Well, looks like that solves our draft problem, at least until the snow starts melting. Ought to be sealed in there real good and tight now, at least from that one side. But still ought to get enough air, because the side facing the cliff is certainly not in the same condition. Should be just fine, and a lot warmer and less drafty too which ought to please Liz. Would probably please her pretty well if I’d head back in there pretty soon too. She seems to have an ear for when people leave the place, and particularly when I do, so she’s probably already awake and wondering. None of us got too much sleep last night with that wind battering the place and us up sometime in the wee hours shoveling snow out of the middle of the floor, so I don’t want her waking from whatever little nap she’s managed this last hour or so, just to be all frustrated and mad that I’m missing.
With a bit of a sigh he turned away from the grey, snowy world outside—they had been calling him, the snowbanks, the wind—and ducked back into the tunnel. Both women were up when he pushed his way squinting and shivering into the dimly lit warmth of the cabin, Liz tending the fire and Juni doing her best to shake blown snow from her sleeping bag before the air could warm too much and begin melting the stuff to soak in and dampen everything, drying such an expanse of synthetic cloth and insulation a questionable thing, in the space of a single day. She appeared, fortunately for her, to have got to it in time and wouldn’t be facing the lengthy drying process so often necessary after such an incident. Had the bag proven too damp, he supposed between the various beaver, muskrat and deer hides they’d accumulated, suitable bedding could have been rounded up to prevent her from freezFing during the following night. Some of the former were rightfully hers, anyway much help as she’d been on their most recent trapping expedition to the river, and he supposed the fact ought at some point to be acknowledged, should she have some use for the furs, but be reluctant to request their use. He rose, brushed the snow from his clothes and held stiff hands briefly over the rising warmth of the fire.
“Looks like we shouldn’t have to worry about snow blowing in here for the rest of this storm, at least. Wind’s got the front of the cabin so plastered over that I’m pretty sure nothing at all should be able to make it through. Got everything pretty well coated with white, for that matter. Quite a storm.”
Liz rose from her crouch beside the stove. “How much new snow do you think we got?”
“Oh, hard to say. Maybe not an awful lot more than three, four inches. Can still see the depressions left by our tracks, here and there where something blocked the wind. Otherwise, everything’s so drifted over that in places the whole landscape’s changed shape. New drifts and ridges everywhere. You’d hardly know it.”
“That’s unusual for up here, isn’t it? For the wind to drift things so dramatically?”
“We get drifts and cornices and all, for sure, but yeah, this is more what you’d expect to see out on the plains where there’s nothing around to block the wind and it can just keep picking up force and speed as it goes along. Not what you usually see in the mountains where we are.”
“It’s been an unusually windy winter, then?” Asked Juni, finishing with what she could do for her sleeping bag and draping it over the branch which normally served as Muninn’s perch. The bird, wakened by Einar’s return, had hopped down and was now bothering Liz about the stew pot, which she was only then beginning to work at filling.
Einar contemplated the question for a moment, but only a moment. “Windiest one we’ve spent up here, without question. I’ve seen others as windy, but not for a good number of years. Those other times, they usually meant spring would come in fast and hard, dramatic changes in the weather and everything melting so fast sometimes that there’d be flooding down lower as the creeks and rivers jumped their banks and brought down all that snowmelt. Not such a good situation, usually. Though shouldn’t affect us up here too much.”
“Spring sure would affect me,” Liz remarked with what Einar thought to be an unusual degree of enthusiasm, “if it would hurry up and come! I’m ready to see some green again.”
Einar took a step back, crouched quietly beside the water barrel. “It’ll come. Always comes.”
“Yes, I know, but can I help it if I’m just a little more eager this year than most? I can’t wait to get Will out and crawling in the meadow, scrambling up rocks and exploring under the big spruces, getting sap all stuck to his knees, no doubt. Figure if he got enough sap stuck to his knees, it could hold him in place when he crawled over a rock? Or allow him to crawl straight up a tree?”
Looking at her a bit strangely—really, what has got into her?—Einar shook his head after a brief, considered pause. “Doubt it.”
“I know, I know! It was a joke. I’m just anxious to see leaves start showing on the aspens again, summer birds coming back, the elk bringing their little ones down to drink at the tarn like I’m sure they do in the spring…new life, Einar! And we get to witness it.”
Joyful musings, indeed, but they were cut short by Juni, who had been smiling as she pictured Will crawling about under the newly-leafed out aspens, sap on his knees and his father’s crooked, mischievous grin on his face. “Will you stay here, then? I mean, long term?”