81. Le gout de snow

Dear Tera,

I have seen the future and its name is Cleo.  Remarkable dog.  There we were one night, cavorting in the blizzard, sniffing as the snow drifted along the river bank.  Suddenly something catches Cleo’s attention. 

Couldn’t have been a squirrel.  Those faint-hearted beasties emerge from their nests neither at night nor in blizzard. But Cleo goes racing off with all her border collie instincts, straight for the willow tree. 

And I’m thinking, “She’d better slow down, or she’ll crash headlong into the trunk.  Even a border collie can’t swerve that quickly – not in this snow.”

Shows what I know.  No, it wasn’t a matter of swerving to avoid the tree.  Cleo just kept on running.  And ran right up the tree trunk.  And stood there triumphantly on the lower branches.  I’d never seen anything like it.

Sure, the tree trunk was not perpendicular – it leaned over the river.  And sure, Cleo the Climbing Dog made no pretense about scrambling further up the bole.  But the implications are monumental. 

We may have been witnessing a step in the evolution of our species that night.  If the rest of us can learn to scramble up tree trunks, then the next pioneer will figure out a way to get to the higher branches.  And then no squirrel or cat will be safe.

I will leave it to the younger generations to fine-tune this maneuver.  Innovation is sometimes best left to younger knees than mine.  These days, my arthritis makes it difficult enough to manage the front stairs, let alone tree trunks.

No, at my age, I have learned to accept my limitations, and savour the simpler pleasures of life.

I have taken up a new hobby this winter: snow tasting. 

Let humanoids, with their less refined olfactory senses, pursue more crass specialties.  Some of them are connoisseurs of wine; others of scotch.  I’ve even heard it said that some have refined their taste buds and sense of smell to become connoisseurs of bottled water.

But we dogs of taste and discernment can identify, even with our eyes closed, whether a particular sample of snow comes from the sun-bleached plains by the hockey boards, or the shadow-dappled meadows behind the bus-stop.

Let oenologists sing the praises of la terre and its subtle impact on the grape.  Me?  I savour le goût de snow.

Le goût de snow

C’est la mémoire du ciel

Sur le bout de la langue

C’est un peu d’éternel

C’est le chant des skis

Les pistes qui les appellent

Oh le goût de snow.

Why, only the other day I was enjoying the bouquet of a very fine vintage of December, 2007, that I’d pawed through the upper crust of snow to taste.  It was light and clean on the palate, with a mellow aftertaste of grass and lemon.  It had been aged several weeks right near the spot where Lucky had done his business shortly after the last great blizzard. 

You have to eat this kind of snow when it has reached its prime.  It does not age well beyond the January thaw. 

And needless to say, this is a highly seasonal obsession of mine.  There’s no sense tasting the piles of snow that the Zamboni leaves outside the hockey arenas.  The snow there has a metallic and manufactured taste that I would just as soon avoid except on the hottest of summer days, when it sometimes serves to remind me of glorious snowfalls to come.

                                                Wonderfully inebriated on the flavours of winter,