A Day in the Woods

The first snow is a long-anticipated event for me.

It is not only eagerness, but also apprehension, that keeps me company on my tenterhooks. Either way, there is relief when the white stuff finally flies.

I missed the first two snows that came and went, so I was truly chomping at the bit by the time I woke up to my first solid, snowy morning, earlier this week.

The arrival of that coat of white signifies the end of the growing season, the end of the jobs I continue to do while the weather holds, and the end of berry-picking. One more day without snow? Surely there is something I must do that I won’t be able to do tomorrow.

Snow closes the door firmly on fall and opens up the broad expanse of magical winter, with its cozy insides and crisp outsides. The world is brighter than it was during the in-between time of shrinking daylight and dark, snowless ground.

A particular delight of mine comes in the form of tracks; the movements of creatures and people, to which my dim human senses are blind in the summer, become crystal clear on the fresh white canvas. On this particular day, I see that before I have emerged from the warm cocoon of my cabin my dog has made dozens of circuits around the property and my resident squirrel has established a new cache of mushrooms in my shed, to which I am led by a tiny runway laid down by four scurrying, hurrying paws.

A friend comes out to join me on a walk, and we are accompanied by coyotes, foxes and marten, who have all passed this way since the snow ceased falling early this morning. It is as if I have been awakened, and can “see” with a new sense.

One who is absent from our meanderings is the grouse.

Where there were veritable flocks a few weeks ago, exploding from the underbrush of spruce trees like so many turboprops, not a trace is to be found now. We shoulder our weapons philosophically; a few grouse would have been nice, but the walk is plenty worth it without.

In a bid to bring home some sustenance for the body as well as the spirit we head to a nearby river and throw in lines for grayling. We can see them in the clear water between the shelves of ice forming on the banks — dark, lithe shapes, swirling in the current, then flashing silver as they rise to the surface.

Here we have more luck, and we feel we have earned it by the chill that has set into our bones, brought on by the wind rushing down the river.

When we have had enough, we return to the car with a beautiful brace of fish, and I sink happily into the passenger seat, still warm from the dog waiting patiently for us to return.

Who would have thought the long-anticipated snow would bring such contentment?

Grayling à la Kim

A quick and simple way to cook your catch after a long day out:

1 grayling, gutted and scaled

1 onion

1 Tbsp. seasoning salt (or salt and herbs)

1 Tbsp. butter

2-4 Tbsp. flour (any kind, including gluten-free)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub a baking dish that will fit your fish with butter. Slice onion thinly and spread over the bottom of the dish. Mix the flour and seasoning on a plate, and dredge the fish so that both sides are covered. Place the fish in the dish and cover with a lid or tin foil. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your fish, until the flesh flakes cleanly when speared with a fork. If you like your fish crispy, remove the foil and place under the broiler for a couple minutes to finish.

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