Going on Six Months
I haven't had a snow-less photo to post since November. By the time the snow all melts, we will have had snow on the ground for six months. I am sick of my lack of vision to find photos other than snow - though not sick of the snow itself. One of the reasons i have posted so little these past few weeks is that my photos are all the same. Still, it has been a most amazing winter.
I thought it was a bit strange that I don't get sick of the snow, seeing as how I am not a particularly avid skier or snow-sportsman. I prefer hiking on rock and dirt. I didn't realize why "just being" in a snowy area was so great until the last snow fell and the melting began. Having something to look out at every day, something to measure and compare to the day before, something to look forward to when going to bed at night - this is what made winter here so great.
It feels a bit like cheering on your schools football team - the pride that comes from seeing ten more centimeters of snow each day, of seeing the walls of snow along the road finally reach above our heads. And now, since the beginning of March, the same pride at seeing how far spring is pushing its way in. How many fukinoto (a delicious wild spring vegetable) are popping up along the side of the river, how quickly the snow melts. In February, I hated to shovel because I wanted to see how deep it could get around our house. Now, I want to shovel every day because I want to see how quickly we can get our field cleared and ready for use.
Sometimes I pass through Nagano City. Despite being only an hour away, the geography of the area means that they get very little snow. Still, it is cold, drab, seemingly lifeless. I feel so fortunate that we do not live there. Although they have four seasons, the amount of day-by-day change in those seasons is nothing compared to Sakae Mura. Sure, once the cherry blossoms bloom they will have two weeks to savor the melancholy of fleeting moments, and fall will also give people momentary glimpses of seasonal beauty as they file from their train to the work and back again. Here, we see change EVERY DAY.
Life here is built on constant change. People's work revolves around the seasons. Be they construction workers or farmers, the winter work is completely different than summer. Our neighbors are construction workers (father/son family business). During the winter, however, the son takes seasonal work as the driver of the groomer at the local ski hill. Other neighbors who farm in the summersupplement their winter "need to be productive" by driving the snow-plow.
One thing that strikes me about the snow-plow work is how wonderfully unpredictable it is. While most of us would HATE having a job that we can't depend on, that we are constantly on call, at the mercy of the weather, there is also something amazing about having such a direct connection to the natural forces that effect yourlivelihood. But then, they are farmers - they're used to it.
I had expected early spring to be a time of waiting, for the snow to melt so we could get on with life. It is not. The snow plows are working overtime, plowing roads that were closed during the winter, people are covering their fields with dirt or ash to help the snow melt faster. We are far behind, hardly prepared for our summer season - both in terms of farm plans and seed purchasing, and in terms of our OneLife Japan website and program offerings.
As I write this, I am feeling the pressure of an upcoming trip for a family of four. Not having spent the winter here, will they feel the same sense of awe and beauty as they ride through our countryside not having endured the winter or, will it just look like an area in the midst of an unremarkable waiting period before the "good" season comes?
The photos on this post are from a couple of recent spring day-hikes. One was with some friends from the village (Maiko and Bob), and the other was with Shinchan and partner. Shinchan is a fellow Outward Bound instructor, whom you may remember from my winter bike adventure last year.
After an open-fire picnic with a view, we tested out the old snow-board I had laying around (but had never used). I found it much easier, and much more fun, to sit on the snowboard like a sled. I hope to get some old skis and snowboards from the junk-yard and make a super-sled for next year.