Here is a grainy cell phone photo of a suburban street late in the afternoon on the day of the winter solstice, 2014 - just a few days ago. The subject is not special; there is nothing pretty about leaning telephone poles or dirty snowbanks. Our fumbling photographer applied neither the emotional calculus of art nor the patient skill of craft when taking it, as may be readily perceived.
So this picture of my neighborhood is unremarkable. If I fail to remark on something, that does not mean I take it for granted. On the contrary, I stopped on my chilly walk to fish the device out of my pocket with stupid slow fingers because it spoke to me of my life in winter. Of a hundred or a thousand similar glimpses of weak light in the dark months one where or another along this bark-brown and glaucous-green row of states bordering Quebec. That such moments promise little in terms of good skiing is part of the point. To me these moments indicate winter of a fundamental indoor-outdoor kind, in a way that the best shot of commercial ski slopes never does, covered as it will inevitably be with the tasteful gloss of upper-middle-class self-satisfaction. (A tired skier or three emerging from woods after a tour is a different matter.) Jesus was a carpenter. How many of you have seen the film, Nobody's Fool, with Paul Newman? Watch that movie. Pay attention to the setting.
Local landscapes are like family members. You love them, but it's not always because they are particularly lovable. It's because they're familiar and they're yours. They've been with you on so many days when good or at least memorable things have happened. I imagine that there are many of you EpicSki friends out there into whose hearts winter, some long years ago, also sank her uncomfortable but nevertheless always life-affirming she-bear claw in a setting like this. Maybe you were walking home along just such a street, on just such an evening, after sledding with friends, wet mittens on your numb hands, an itchy wool hat on your head, a cracked Flying Saucer in your hand, and sandwich bags lining your galoshes. Well met! And Merry Christmas to you.