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Raven was not happy with me...raucous complaints and a penetrating obsidian eye staring at me was quite clearly a complaint on the paucity of my gifts to her.

A few sunflower and bean seeds were my offering from my garden...I ate the jerky, crackers, and cheese as my frosty breath steamed and floated in the air. She pecked at the seeds and seemed reluctantly happy.

Eleven years of snow camping...time moves on and the seasons pass swift....and I always leave a small gift for raven, but one that is natural and will not make Raven and her friend's dependant on me. The crumbs falling on the snow will be picked over I am sure, and perhaps even found by mouse who is watching quietly from within a nearby tree well.

Time rolls on and again I and the Boy Scout troop I work with have traveled into the back country to make snow shelters and spend a weekend learning, building, and listening.

All can hear but few listen.

Each year we learn new things, by trial and error, by observation, by listening to those more skilled....I am skilled and spend my time telling and showing so that others can try, fail, and try again. I have learned that I could do the work for others and they would have to do little work, would be more comfortable, and the risk would be less....yet they would have learned the wrong things.

Raven agrees...she would like more food from me yet understands that I must leave nothing but footprints and snow holes and for me to feed her much would unbalance the world...she understands even as she is unhappy.

Life can be unhappy yet joyful she wisely tells me...and then asks for more sunflowers.

I and others were here the weekend before and built our igloos for this week end so that we could teach others, watch others, and learn new things without having to set time apart to build our shelters...a wise thing we learned some years ago. And nowe this weekend we came up late Friday afternoon and in the gathering gloom began our trek, our learning experience.

I come every year, I plan to continue till my body can no longer visit Raven in Winter....she is one of Winters Ghosts who talk to me each time....Wolf, he sometimes speaks...he rarely visits.

As we arrived in the parking area the temperature was 10 degrees, the air burned with its frost, and we quickly dressed and hooked up sleds or as in my case strapped on backpack and snow shoes. I like a pack, it is self-contained and allows me to forge ahead of others breaking the trail with its new six inches of snow and I won't carry too much....I will quickly start taking off layers of clothes as exertion warms me.

Up a loop, climbing, I gradually leave the main group behind...no fears here in this land, no chance of them losing me since they follow my trail...it is quiet except for the dropping of snow from late afternoon warmed branches. I climb another loop of trail, pause, and listen to the others below me following with the sleds....I chuckle because learning tells me they carry too much because the sleds can carry more.

This is where Raven first greets me....she settle on a branch and greets me with a muted question of greeting...yes tomorrow at lunch I tell her.

I continue on, up the ridge, past the meadow where our igloos stand guard...we will spend tonight in the yurt...I forge ahead, my task to break trail, to open the yurt, and breathe life to dancing flames for those who follow. The gloom gathers into dark and stars, oh so many stars, come to life as I slowly walk the ridgeline and set my pack upon the yurts deck. It is only moments to unlock the yurt, and yes luck is with me, winking embers in the stove show through the glass so the fire will quick tonight.

With the fire set and growing in the stove I claim my sleeping spot and return to the deck to listen....faint, very faint, I hear Wolf speak. Wolf visits here...his footprints show on the deck...Wolf though rarely will be seen and his wisdom is deep. With a start I shake myself from reverie hearing the others puffing up the trail, young men who chatter like squirrel.......and neither hear or listen to Raven and Wolf's wisdom each year.

The night is deepening and the Hoarfrost Fox is about so we bundle into the yurt, we each contribute to a feast (I brought smoked oysters and crackers), we tell tall tales, play games until late at night. I visit the deck later, watching coat of snow cover it which will have to clear in the moring, softly it is hiding all things under a muffled white coat...Wolf sings far away.

The nights passes swiftly with on occasional thumps upon the roof by the Yurtles, a peoples who love to throw snow upon your roof and disturb your sleep...they are shy though and will vanish with dawns light.

We arise in the morning and quickly clean up, eat, clean the deck, restock the woodbin, and mop the floor dry...things done for the next Yurt camper...who hopefully does it for the next.

In bright light we travel back to the meadow, claiming our igloos, setting our new camp for this day and night to come...and wait and listen...ahh the younger boys and other adults are arriving, puffing and crunching up the trail. Only forty one campers this year...a good number none the less, and more manageable than last years 65.

The day passes swiftly, we race the sun to finish structures and begin dinner before the mountains shade us and chill us...I make the rounds to check progress and when needed give advice. All are doing well, a minor collapse here leads to the advice to borrow ski poles and cut branches for the roof and put a tarp over them with a skiff of snow for insulation.

Others are busy creating a large fire bowl pit where we will gather in the evening and tell stories, eat cheese cakes, and later for a few of us elder ones quietly talk of many things.

I take a break and slip into the upper meadow with my late afternoon lunch where Raven visits me, and mouse watches carefully. All is well, the silence is deep and Raven preens while watching for more offerings.

Time moves on and I must return, get the boys to changes socks (they rarely believe me when I tell them that I know their socks are wet), check shelters and suggest they start dinners. Last nights dark was of dark misty stars as cloud cover came and gifted us with new snow....tonight's is the crisp clear of shining hard cold and later of full mother moon (Raven told me no storms for us tonight, she is wise in these things).

We gather at the fire, we sing our songs to Wolf, we laugh and eat a late snack...boys gradually drift off to beds...there will of course be some problems but small ones easily solved.

Night drifts on and eventually only I am left to bank the fire and watch Mother Moon....I walk a short way into the welcoming forest and listen. Louder tonight, yet still far away, I hear Brother Wolf tell me wise things...tomorrow will come soon, we will pack, we will talk of what we did right and wrong, and all will return safe to home and hearth...this year though Brother Wolf is busy and has no time for foolish elder snow man...

...maybe next winter that ghost will again visit me and tell me wise things.

Raven of course will be unhappy.

md
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