In the Bleak Midwinter

This week I went up to Elbow Lake where our cabin is. The snow was deep, fresh, clean, white, fluffy, and undisturbed. It stood about 18 inches tall on every horizontal surface. I went for a walk in the deafening silence and realized that 50 years ago this month I was on my first foray into the Boundary Waters. I was an Outward Bound student and spent the whole month of January 1973 traversing the frozen lakes and rivers on skis. As is the custom at Outward Bound, I spent 3 days in the forest by myself. I remember distinctly (and my memories are backed up by my journal) sitting at the mouth of my little snow cave I dug, feeding twigs to my fire, and thinking that when I grew up I wanted to be a hermit. I never would have imagined that exactly 50 years later I would be visiting my very own hermitage only 20 miles away from that snow cave. Sometimes we think that our lives twist and turn and wander every which way, but here is mine, completing a circle: same place, same yearning for solitude. But instead of being a “someday” dream, it is reality. What great fortune!

Elbow Lake, January 2023

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