Yesterday morning when I got up the thermometer on the deck read -19. Nineteen degrees below zero. Farenheit. I noticed a squirrel, wide-eyed and shivering as it cracked black oil sunflower seeds at the feeder.
Later in the day (after refilling the feeder), I mentioned to someone I’d gone for an afternoon walk and they asked what the temp was. I said, “there wasn’t one”. Yesterday’s high WAS zero.
It was noticeably warmer today, around 6 above at dawn and well into the teens by later in the day. So why not go to an outdoor festival, celebrating winter? As I said to another friend today, if you don’t embrace winter here with both arms and a big smile you’re going to spend quite a long time being miserable.
The Ice on Fire festival has been an annual tradition for fourteen years now at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, or nearby at Wrightsville Reservoir. (Legend has it the first festival included activities like sledding through rings of fire on the frozen reservoir – and apparently there are pictures somewhere to verify the story!) The festival is the original inspiration of local resident Tarin Chaplin and others in the community with a mind to honor this cold season – in the open, outside where winter happens.
This is the first year the event is carrying on without Tarin, who passed away shortly after last year’s festivities. Today her spirit was very much present in the songs that were sung, the poetry and stories that were shared, the imaginative puppets and costumes, and the event’s cohesive scope – which a friend of Tarin’s described as befitting her “fully choreographed” vision of things.
I did not know Tarin personally, but I feel like I may know her a little now after spending today with so many people who loved her and chose to honor her spirit by carrying on with this special festival. Here are some pictures from the day – you’ll see I took many of the snow geese puppets. They were especially captivating in the glow of low afternoon, deep winter light.