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Vo l . 7 N o . 1 of nearby neighbors and friends, the bathrobe-clad trips to the showers. I didn’t yet know that this first night I would jerk from an exhausted drowse again and again in sensations of falling, blackness rushing at my face. Shocked afresh at how nature could so suddenly cast aside my footing, that collapse could be so deep, and that I couldn’t know how much snow was in play or what to do. Then I would remind myself I was safe. Then sink again, this time lacking a floor under me in the official reality— there had been no incident, or at least, notes weren’t shared with the person it had happened to. She is safe, it’s over. Not to me. My report of a hazard was left hanging. Most of all, how could the ski patrol not show up, and not say anything? Yet there was James, who Winter Blooms pulled me back through the broken floor and mended it for our steps out. I could only try to assure myself that trail grooming machinery and any guidance from James would suffice to keep others safe. The next day the manager told me James hadn’t found my cell phone. Buried just too deep. She paused, thinking about that, then said no more about it. She brightened. “James was pleased to be asked what he likes. But he said that really, if you want to, just a candy bar would be nice.” She smiled at this modesty, this youthful simplicity. I smiled as well, but I was matching this answer to my impression of James. No, he wouldn’t want to ask for anything, but he wouldn’t refuse, altogether, something that came from another’s heart. Yes, that’s James. I only said, “Oh, I can do better than a candy bar.” Back at home, I prepared and sent a box of goodies in gratitude to James, wishing I could do more—I wanted to adopt him. In the next months, physical therapy went well, and as my mental trauma subsided, I was feeling I’d keep my snowshoes, even as I vowed never to go alone again. But thoughts of Timberline came tinged with a kind of lonesomeness, a feeling of loss, like a love affair of twenty years had derailed. Then at tea one day, I leafed through an Audubon magazine I hadn’t seen before, and a photograph jumped out, a gorgeous white weasel, head and shoulders above the snow, looking straight at the camera, promising answers to the mystery that was so far from my city understanding: how my friend the

101 pine marten survived. Wilderness snow teems with life down to microbe size, newer research shows. Different things going on in different strata. Mice and voles, the prey of pine martens, can thrive in winter, even breeding below the snow blanket, warm enough at ground level, with grasses and insects to eat. Still, I pondered, what magic keeps wild creatures safe in the kind of melting, refreezing, sliding snow that had brought me in seconds to utter helplessness? They no doubt read signs that I couldn’t see, and avoid some trouble. But there is no magic—their lives are indeed precarious, and not just for an hour. The writer’s conclusion was poignant: just as we discover this hidden and intricately inter-dependent world in wilderness snow, a warming earth may destroy its delicate seasonal timing. Kim Davis I set down the magazine, my respect for hardier-than-me pine martens mingling with sadness for their plight. Yet, strangely, I was less lonesome about Timberline, feeling I had something in common with these wilderness residents. Now I needed to go back, and try to find James again. The sight that greeted Bill and me at Timberline on President’s Day, 2015, was starkly changed, the thin snowpack looking like June. On Tuesday, I sent a message for James to the parking lot mail stop, then walked the snowshoe trail with another lodge guest. On the backside of the knoll the water tower loomed up. This was what the lodge manager thought was the chimney I’d seen. But it was too big, and topped by a wooden roof, not the structure I’d passed in the snowstorm before the collapse. Later, I walked the now bare, dry road down to the end of the rock knoll, and turned east, surprised to find, so far back from the road, an overflow parking lot. Unneeded in winter and unplowed last year, it had lain disguised under several feet of snow. Partway along the edge of the lot, a low blocky structure looked built into the tapering knoll, banked with snow, and topped by . . . a stone chimney. I walked on to the east end of the pavement and stood for a time looking down at a precipitous ravine. Then I walked back to the chimney. I thought of the dim apparition I’d seen last year, puzzling whether I could have seen this from the trail. On Thursday, the last day of our trip, James called. He’d been away for several days and had just

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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