A philosophical lot, Northrons.

I was out this morning shoveling this winter's first inch. (Up here in the North Country, snow comes progressively: First Flurry, First Laying Snow, First Shoveling Snow.)

Every single person that went past had something to say, a continuing conversation. You could construct an entire philosophy from what they said.

Well, it's here.

Early or late, it always comes.

Sure is beautiful, though.

Northern fatalism? Not really. Fatalism is laying down and letting it cover you. If this is fatalism, it's a fatalism of honor, a fatalism that spurs to action. If we're going to go down, we'll go down fighting, shovels—like swords—in hand.

You learn to do what you can, whatever the odds, whatever the ends, one shovelful at a time. It may or may not be enough, but that's no reason to stop trying.

With winters like ours, you learn to think ahead. The firewood's cut and stacked (under a tarp, of course), the pantry, freezer, and back steps are as full as I can make them. Yesterday I picked the last of the kale and collards from the garden. Everyone knows that “frosting” makes them sweeter and more tender.

Yesterday was dark. Night comes early now, and lingers late. The ivy outside still holds its leaves, keeping out what little light there is. Rising before sunrise, I fumble around in night.

But this morning, the house was full of light. Every silver snowflake is a crystal mirror.

At Samhain She comes, gaunt screaming hag, the black frost by night.

Now She's youthful again, the Maiden Snow, in all Her blue-crystal beauty.

Do not be fooled: Her embrace is just as deadly.

Winter's Eve, they call Samhain hereabouts, and—sure enough—She's here.

Early this year, they say, but that's by our time, not Hers.

And every flake's a flower.