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Holiday week

12/25/06 12:00AM By Ruth Page
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(HOST) For commentator Ruth Page's family, Christmas Day marks just the beginning of many seasonal pleasures.

(PAGE) Dazzled, I would just stand and look out at the diamond-dusted air, the glory of an icy morning when all the trees swayed in a glittering ballet; I was mesmerized. This happened more than once, in the 1960's and 1970's, but so far as I know, not since - at least so early in the winter, between Christmas and New Year's.

We lived from 1951 to 2002 atop a hill at whose base lay a climbable cliff down to Lake Champlain. Now and then, in those early winters before earth warmed so sharply, the temperature was often below zero. Snow lay on the ground, the breeze floated snow-motes through the air, and the whole world sparkled.

It was nothing like an ice-storm; but the Lake was steaming great, light clouds, and the wind carried the steam landward. It clung to the trees, turning to brilliant ice-specks and creating a captivating wonderland of gently-shifting limbs whose snow-light coruscated in the bright rays of early morning sun and inevitably delayed our rush to get to work. First we had to run from window to window, to see all the trees brilliantly dressed for the holidays - the five tall pines on the cliff, the dwarf apple trees near the house, the small ever-green-wooded area between us and a neighbor, and the very shrubs along the front and back of the house.

We took pictures, of course; even then we wondered whether this kind of treat in early winter was likely to continue. It didn't, of course, but our memories are much enriched by the lovely vision.

We never thought of the days right after Christmas as a letdown or recovery time. Usually we had cousins to visit, and neighbors to join in making snow-angels, playing tag in inches of snow out in the adjacent field, sometimes cooking hot dogs down on the rock-beach if the weather was less bitter. It was all fun.

Of course it was too early for the Lake to freeze, even in those years when it froze quite reliably, just about every year. Sometimes we could hear the ice forming, booming loudly as seams formed when the waters fought against their imprisonment.

If there was a bright moon at night, its light also caught the icy glitter on tree-branches, not making a coruscating sparkle, but creating a sort of nimbus around each tree, as moon-rays touched nature's decorations.

Those icy days may be long gone, but the holiday week still offers quiet outdoor treats for those who want them: just walk or snowshoe in any small woodland, checking out animal tracks and watching squirrels ripple across the ground in search of autumn's buried nuts. Have a happy winter.

Ruth Page has been following environmental issues for twenty years. She is a long time Vermont resident and currently lives in Shelburne.

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