The Woods are Lovely

Last night was the first true run I was able to do on a sled. A few nights ago, I took two teams of three out on a two mile jaunt each.

The puppies grow. The team gets stronger. Snow falls. My kennel is becoming a reality. It is a reality. Something I only dreamed of years ago.

We’re destined for a lot of snow coming this weekend, and I think that will mean we’re well and truly on sleds for the season. A lot earlier than I have been in many years– A good endorsement of choosing to mush here.

It’s also getting darker. With work, I can sit by big windows, but I’m still more or less indoors. Don’t get me wrong– I wouldn’t give up my job for anything. I’m privileged to be able to check on my puppies, be right with my team all the time. But I think I have to start sitting with a happy light, too. And I’m taking vitamin D now. The darkness, here, will be one of the toughest things for me– something I already knew.

I’m bonding with my dogs, each one of them. They are all so personable and make me laugh every day. I love them. That part of me that wants to protect my heart– that doesn’t listen to reason which says: it’s okay, you can be open, these dogs are with you for the rest of the road– that part of me which is afraid, wants to rebuff the closeness, rebuff the bond. But I can’t help it. These girls are such good girls. Oh, and R2 and Max too. All good dogs. All different and interesting. All true. They ask me to run them, to give them good food, to give them the simple trust and companionship they give me. And so I do.

Our first official sled run was magic, diving into that darkness made deeper by quietly falling snow. I hate mushing when it’s snowing– Or at least it’s annoying. It’s hard to see, snow flakes seem to dart into your eyes. (This would be mitigated by mounting a light on the sled, which I’ll do– One day.) But it still does have its magic. We traced trails I’ve done on four wheelers, bordered by trees arched over with the new white. The dogs were quiet and steady, and when we stopped, they rolled in the snow and then stood and jumped and barked for more. Their running is a smooth, mile-eating trot, a gentle pat-pat-pat in time with each other.

I am not pushing miles the way I would if we were entering mid distance or distance races this year. It astonishes me to see that the miles we do run– which are plenty of miles, with one or at most two days off at a time– are not enough, not even for this little group of six. They want more, they are hungry for more. They need this thing, this running. They need it for dozens, hundreds of miles. That’s what it takes to reach repletion.


This time of year, when the trees grow heavy with snow and the darkness comes creeping in, I think a lot of the poem by Robert Frost:


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.