It is cold - 2 degrees cold. I poke at the thermometer attached to my wall. It reads outside and inside temperatures. Right eye squints uncertainly, left eyebrow arches...

"You SURE you want to hike today?"
"We ALWAYS hike on Sunday mornings, get up"

She stands at the bed arms crossed in mock impatience.

It is bright out. The sky is clear. 8:00 am, the sun is up. Usually it is I awakening her these Sunday mornings. My down comforter so warm, the temperature gauge looking sooooo...

"OK, layer up" I say, swinging my legs out of the bed.

This is more about routine at this moment then anything else.

We always do it, do not change now, there has been enough change thankyou.

This is what I hear, the unspoken.

Two pairs of socks
microfiber pants
beneath heavy blue jeans
T-shirt below
turtleneck below
sweat shirt under
bright red winter coat
a neck muffler tucked in
ear warmers and gloves
and sturdy weather proof hiking boots
face freshly creamed
(a layer of "fat/oils" to hold cold at bay)

and I am ready to traipse in the woods at first light in a deep chill with my daughter because she asked, because I can't say no...

I wish I had brought a camera, even that instamatic idiotproof thing. A snapshot of cold. A snapshot of deep chill to the bones through all the layers cold.

Breath of fog hangs in the air and freezes on her hair. It is that quick. Huaaah, and solid strands bang upon her cheek. She is fascinated yet does not like the feel of icicles attached to her head. My glasses ice over, the moisture from my breath fogs them and whoooooooosh, I can see the crystals start at the edge and race across literally before my eyes. I take them off and hold them over the defroster, waiting for the car to reluctantly warm up. The car grumbling about being awakened.

Parking lot is thick ice from snow trampled down, thawed, frozen, thawed, frozen again... 3 inches thick mixed with road dirt. Brownish, murky ice. The only color, our gold car parked atop of it. I am glad I found a car wash. Not so dingy looking. A bright spot, clean and clear over that dirty space below...

Walking on hardened snow, not even a crunch. so cold. so hardpacked. firn. I pull neck muffler up over my nose. Moisture collects within from warm breath. I do not wish to share with the wintery woman trying to steal it from my lips before it has even passed them.

"We'll go to the cabin and a little beyond. If by then Mistress Winter has grabbed us, it is time to turn around, OK?"

"Deal" she agrees. Smiling to be out.

The stream has steam rising off it. This is how cold the air is. This is not a hot spring, but it deceptively invites as if it were one. the moisture doesn't go far, it is whisked to the edges and changed quickly. She is thirsty for it, this wintery lady. She takes it and kisses the branches and bushes hanging low nearby. Sharp peaks of ice form, tiny and numerous. They become covered as white pipecleaner arrangements. She does stunning work.

The stream is moving, yet thin ice spreads from the shore reaching towards the center and the other side trying to touch fingertips, yearning, stretching out. The waterfall edges are even beginning to solidify. Only the middle is still moving water unwilling to slow for the frosty queen. The soft cloud rises above it suggesting heat. Duplicity. "Come in" it whispers.

Individual tiny stars form about each speck of dirt still on cabin windows. Granuals as base turning ugly to art. It needs woodsmoke curling up the chimney It is empty but for a severe wood table set on hardwood floor. uninviting. chilly reception...breath freezes to glass, frosty feathers instantaneous. Thankyou, whispers the Mistress. She has stolen a kiss.

We step into the woods. The forest shades out the bright sunshafts trying to touch us. The temperature difference instantly felt. Freezing to frigid. Yes-there is a difference. It is from frosty to biting. Five minutes into the woods at a brisk pace with muscles moving and hot and yet... She slips her cold fingers through layer after layer until brushing her palms along my thighs. She has my attention.

"Time to go back" I spin on my heels.
"Yes we need the sun!" she agrees voice muffled beneath scarf.

It is the light that draws me back, reflecting off the blanketed ground and the sleeping pond. It is that glitter, those sparkles hinting of hidden life beneath...

Each season has its own type of beauty. The Wintery Lady is severe, attractive and compelling none the less. She is hard to resist. She is a woman to visit, only. To stay is to succumb. To slip under the frost is to become numb. It is to lose hope.

She has no interest in the heat of a beating heart. Her intention is to slow it down, stall time. She brings endless sleep and hibernation. That is the danger of losing yourself to her. She is deceptively captivating. She beckons. It is so easy to go to her, so easy to slide within her arms and feel her cold embrace.

The sunlight reflected off her skin glitters. And I remember. Spring is around the corner. I have but to wait...

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