Winter Song for the Black Mountains

There’s something about the uncracked, pre-dawn darkness that motivates me, even on the coldest mornings, to keep my daily ritual of early morning writing. The stars struggle with their ancient light, battling with the moon as it dips behind the rim of the Blacks. Not far behind, pale yellow pours over Seven Mile Ridge, coaxing a snakeline of fog to rise from the river. From one view, the ridgelines are still dark, trees like chopstick silhouettes. From the other, alpenglow thaws the 6000-foot Black Mountain range. Dwarf evergreens frosted in rime ice alight. Through the refraction of light, they appear as ballerinas in shimmery pink, twirling slightly.

The cold front builds with the assuredness of a novel. I go on my longest runs during peak warmth come mid-afternoon–a few miles down the mountain and into the valley, through rhodi thickets and over icy creeks. Oak leaves, a coffee brown carpet across the forest floor. There, a friend takes a photo from his porch and captures the polar vortex as it gathers, high and mighty. My runs take me from halfway up these peaks, into the valley, and to this very spot (then around a loop again):

(Courtesy Tal Galton)

By nightfall, the “hollers are singing,” as they say, meaning the wind whips with such force down the sheer face of the Blacks that it sends a constant sound. Like the ocean waves, if you didn’t know better. Tucked into the cabin (not in the Airstream tonight) with locust logs on a slow burn, my muscles carry the cold of the day; a tight memory of hard work, hot breath, miles kicking ice-hard beneath my feet. It feels good to move in body and in words, in views and in time. The sun rises and sets. The mountains sing and sing all night, wind whipping ’round the peaks in subzero furies, curling the clouds in on themselves until they sift free. Move on. Break into a new day.

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