Before the worst cold spell, the beekeeper puts his ear to the back and sides of the hive and listens for a soft hum. He straightens up, presses his hand to his aching back, looks to the slate gray sky hanging over the hazy mountain, and he knows snow is coming.
By morning, the bee boxes are insulated by bonnets of snow, the bees clustered securely inside. Horses in the field paw the ground and nibble at shafts of golden grass as soft white blankets cloak their backs. Deer are bedded down under pine trees. A woodpecker swoops onto a birdfeeder, causing a nuthatch to flee.
The beekeeper’s wife stares out the kitchen window and frets about her magnolia tree, the branches hanging heavy under a mantle of snow. She pulls her coat on over her nightgown, slips her bare feet into rubber boots, grabs the broom and goes out to sweep off the tree.
In town, an artist sets up her easel on a sidewalk and begins to etch pale blue lines on the blank canvas. A boy and girl run down the middle of the street bombarding each other with snowballs. In the park, bright ribbons of children trail uphill, sleds in tow, poising for an instant at the top, before racing down. An office-worker gazes out the window at commuters trudging by and observes wryly to no one in particular, “Look, it’s a Dilbert snow globe.”
Neighbors converge with shovels and laughter and share stories about the thrill of waking up to a winter wonderland and No School Today. Leslie liked to walk in the quiet woods of her parents’ Christmas tree farm in upstate New York searching for animal tracks—deer and fox. Levi grew up Amish in Wisconsin, where boys would gather at the frozen pond at dusk, string lanterns in the trees, don their skates, and play a mean game of ice hockey. Mark played ice hockey, too, on the C & O canal, often stopping along the way to borrow a pair of skates from the free-for-all box on Colonel Thompson’s back porch.
On the farm, the beekeeper’s wife pours a cup of tea and sits in a chair beside a sun-filled window. Her big yellow cat claims her lap, and knocks her knitting to the floor. Across the field, vultures circle the silo as a red fox darts by, leaps atop a hay bale and curls up for a nap. The beekeeper steps outside, pours honey on a pure patch of snow, scoops up a handful and savors the taste of winter.