Season’s Greetings from Our Family to Yours

A MIDWINTER’S TALE:  ONCE UPON A TIME…

In January, 1978, after months of searching, Steve and I found a piece of land on which we might build our guest ranch. It was deep midwinter, the fences were buried, there were no roads, no buildings, no landmarks:  just the two of us, trying to ski our way across an ocean of snow, under a brilliant, freezing sky. This poem celebrates the gift of that day, the gift of the land, and the gift of The Home Ranch.

Ann and Steve Stranahan

Inspecting the Property

We thought we wanted to buy the land
but first we had to see it:  six hundred acres
more or less, almost a county mile, all of it withheld,

a mystery, gripped by the deepest snow in memory;
there was nothing to do but ski it.  So we set out…

our poles reached to the sky,  so knapsacked
and knickered even our shadows looked Nordic.
We skimmed white meadows that might grow our hay,
flew over fences that would keep the cows out,
slid down to the creek to consider the
trout, caught in a wide net of ice.

Our skis as thin as the legs of deer, as fleet,
as elusive — we were graceful and foolish
by turns:  gliding, sweating, racing the sun,
or falling in desperate splashes, freezing,
insulted, beseeching the land to let us pass,
making a deal with our muscles

until our tracks stretched clean and long:
I could feel the soft fat melt and drip
into my socks, imagined my thighs growing
taut and lean, thought even my teeth had  grown tough
enough to snatch off some bark from the trees,
to break bread, as it were, with the elk

who watched above our heads.  We bit, instead,
into a peanut bar, chewy, brittle as the bark;
and drank a little can of beer, sprinkling some
on the snow, baptizing it with our name
laying impermanent claim
to what might lie below –

just as some small animal had left proprietary drops
around what appeared to be a feathery sapling, ankle high,
that we had brushed with our wooden wings:
realizing only as we left our land
that it was the top of a Christmas tree
its presents buried until the spring.

Ann A. Stranahan

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