The late autumn landscape turned from brown to white, as about half an inch of snow had come in the night. Even in the moonlight I was getting used to the brown-ness of it all. Then this morning, like flipping a switch, everything was white and moonlight-bright. My first thought when I looked outside was "winter"—it's here, and today I start looking forward to spring. The nighttime temperatures have dropped to the teens and its time to get a little more serious about keeping warm—with the good mittens, hat and a warm hooded sweatshirt, and it's time to bring out the winter socks. Sounds like winter's here to me, and the woodstove has a bigger appetite for firewood. For me, winter starts when I start doing winter chores, like carrying more water and firewood and shoveling snow. Yeah, winter has started for me, but I'm still looking forward to the solstice.
My early morning walk in the moonlight was an eye-opener. Every tree and bush cast a dark shadow across the bright snow. White on white, on an arctic night, with a million stars shining bright. My thoughts returned to an article I had recently read about Polar bears. The landscape before me was quiet, still and white. I thought of the Polar bear roaming the moonlit ice, completely alone with his senses. He wanders in search of food, letting his keen sense of smell guide him. He's all alone in an icy white world, with little to hear but the wind, and little to see besides ice. This is how he has always kept himself alive, and he's good at it.
A healthy adult male Polar bear may stand eleven feet tall and weigh 2000 pounds. Now there's a bear that's done some eating! He is the only true carnivorous bear, and has no trouble removing a 300-pound seal through a hole in the ice with one swipe of a huge white paw. A single male bear may walk 100,000 miles in his life, searching for food. I could see him ambling along on the ice under the twinkling arctic stars, occasionally raising his white head to test the wind with his nose. With so much time on his hands, he surely has time to think about things. He must be very wise, this single Polar bear on the arctic ice.
Only a week ago the skunks and opossums were out searching for food along the roadsides. This week being much colder, they have gone to a warm place to curl up and sleep. The little chipmunks have been asleep in their burrows since the middle of October. I won't see them again until spring, but a warm spell in January or February could bring the skunks and opossums out again.
Like the Polar bear, I spend a lot of time during the winter months alone but unlike the bear, I have a warm, comfortable place to pass the time. At any time I can look out the windows and enjoy the company of wild birds that come to the feeders. The squirrels, deer and turkeys are part of my winter family, and they will keep me good company until spring arrives. Loneliness is a part of my winter existence, but when I think of that wandering Polar bear and his solitary life, I don't feel so all alone.
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