Begin again

By Catherine Keefe
When Weather Underground Lake Tahoe, and the cabin rental agency, and the Squaw Valley ski report, and the friends who live here, and the drought watchers say, “there’s no snow,” I believe them all with the conviction of a woman who packs boots with slippery soles and thin socks for an alpine January vacation with plans of biking and hiking instead of skiing.

I expect no browning snow patches covering the bike path, no puddles melting into ice on the driveway, no leftover frozen white piles hiding the hiking trail.  I imagine dirt and dust and brown pine needle paths still edging the bluest lake in America but no, I definitely don’t imagine snow.

Let me tell you something. There’s no snow like you think there’s no love sometimes, like you want the thrill of skiing the big bowls but the coverage is so light you stay off the mountain so you don’t scratch your new skis and tell everyone there’s no snow, it’s no good. But it is there.

Look – Just now as you come around a corner and catch a glimpse of peaks and those endless pines that aren’t too proud to reach all day, there it is. Snow! Just like love.


It might not be new and it surely isn’t making the news, but there’s pure white evidence that you simply forgot how it fell, silent one night at Christmas time which, truth be told wasn’t even a month ago.

There really is snow because it really is winter and even if it’s not showy and causing road closures or lost hikers or skidding trucks or epic skiing conditions it’s there, a little off the beaten path, a drift in the shadows. It shines under the moon and sparkles in the sun.

There’s less than usual, but when hasn’t that been true about something like your perception of the presence of hope or goodness?  So here I am, entirely unprepared clothes wise and shoe wise and activity planning but I couldn’t care less. Why?  Because it’s winter and there’s snow in the mountains and no one acknowledges it is there. Do you see it?


Once again, I’m delighted, as a child who first discovers snow and now I’m even more apt to believe what Mark Twain wrote in Roughing It:

Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?—it is the same the angels breathe.

In this month of beginnings, under the influence of angels, I once again am allowed the opportunity to let go, especially of expectations.  How blissful to discover I have everything I need after all:
a fireplace.
a match
a husband of 33 years
a contemporary book of poetry written by a woman who lives here
a notebook
a pen

With cold feet,

p.s. One of my travel pleasures is picking up a book written by a local author.  If you ever travel to Lake Tahoe, I highly recommend regional poet Judy Tretheway’s book Rubicon Ramblings.

Here’s one of my favorites:

What is Enough?

Tell me how it happens,
magnificent one,
who stretches
into the golden light above the creek. Tell me how you can stand
so full
when under you flows
a rush of water and foam,
rock and debris. The very water that feeds you
washes away
the earth from your roots.
You grab onto the big boulders
while the soil
full of your food travels on. Every other tree I can see
greets the earth with a full embrace.
Your tether is tenuous,
yet it must be enough.What is enough
in this swiftly flowing world?How much security beneath our feet
do we really need
while we reach for our place
in the sun?