Tonight’s my last night on Wilson Pond and our group of eight is swaddled up in puffy down jackets, gators, Sorrel boots, and mittens. We encircle our sculpture: a packed-snow base stabbed with long, knobby icicles like candles on a cake. They glow by the light of a small candle centerpiece. We gather around the warmth and light as creatures have forever. Grady takes a bite of one icicle, then Doug, then I do too. They’re smooth and glossy as they melt under the stars. The flame flickers in the wind. Dot, one of our trip leaders, suggests that we go around and say what we’re thankful for in winter. It’s like Thanksgiving! Doug and I go back and forth about our “greater appreciations” especially for little things like “silence, dry socks, a snack, tea, or the sight of the moon.” Some love the silence and we meditate on that for a moment. One person speaks of the nostalgia from childhood that winter stirs for them. Suddenly we are shouting out our appreciations, the “popcorn style” of sharing having erupted and this soon moves into a chorus of voices belting or humming “Frosty the Snowman.” We decide this is our trip theme song and, still humming, I strap on my frozen snowshoes laces to follow the group down to the frozen and snow-coated pond.
At least four feet of snow has settled in the last few weeks (especially the last couple days) so it’s impossible to walk out here without snowshoes. The temperature is twenty below, colder than some on the trip have ever experienced. On the pond, we walk in calm silence for a little while without a light other than the moon. Grady teaches the group about the constellation Orion—the sky is so vivid we can even see the bow! Helen points out the Big Dipper, whose handle leads to Polaris in the same line as Cassiopeia, which is shaped like a “W.” Cassiopeia was cast into the stars after disobeying the Gods. Then I perk up and point to the Seven Sisters, a bright cluster. A moment later, in the direction I’m pointing, a shooting star whips across the sky—just another highlight of the day, a streak of luck. On the way back we huddle together and howl and bark into the darkness like coyotes, calling for coyotes’ replies. In the suspenseful silence, I listen to the forest creaking loose like the latch on the outhouse, the ice forming, and to our own voices’ echo. A camera flashes. For the instant, the gliding snowflakes glitter and we are floating among stars.
-Zoe Mason, Nobleboro, ME