Utah Snow Makes Life a Ball of Fun
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STEVE INSKEEP, host:
In this country on the first day of spring some areas face a forecast of wintry weather for the next month or two which is fine with commentator Craig Childs.
Mr. CRAIG CHILDS (Commentator and Author): I'm crouched over a small fire of juniper twigs. It's six or seven degrees below zero in the high desert of southern Utah and the night has just begun. My fire is the only beacon out here; the only sign of life.
This is my favorite time of year to come into the wilderness. One year I spent the whole winter out here, melting ice in a pan for drinking water, camping without a tent on the open deck of the desert. If need be during a snowstorm, I can string up a small tarp or retreat under a sandstone ledge or the lean of a huge boulder. Otherwise, the desert snow falling on my bag, dry as sawdust, is a beautiful sound to sleep to, like a gentle surf.
I've never worried about freezing and I've rarely been touched by frostbite. I get into a rhythm--putting the right layers of clothing on at the right time, boiling a pot of tea, fixing a small fire. Overhead the huge frame of Orion swings around the North Star, dragging all the other constellations along with it in an outrageous show.
After an hour, a disk of ice is left in the bottom of my metal teacup. My fire dwindles and I poke at it with a stick, turning over the last hot bellies of coals. Finally, even that light fades and I'm left sitting on the dark earth, floating among the stars. This is why I do not withdraw into a tent in the winter.
Some people say such an expanse of sky makes them feel small and insignificant. I feel just the opposite--like a giant, limitless--as if I could lift this stick and touch any one of the stars. There are things I forget when I'm bathed in electric lights, when I sleep comfortably in a bed. There is a whole universe out here passing by and tonight I feel like I could stand up from these shackles of cold and step out across the stars, striding like a god through this beautiful night.
INSKEEP: Commentator Craig Childs most recent book is The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival.
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INSKEEP: This is NPR News.