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    Contest Winners - New Traditions - Oct-Nov Winner!

    Becky Blanton's bio:

    I'm a writer and photographer and a "boomer." I currently live in Virginia where I'm a full-time journalist/photographer. I spent last year living in a 30-year old van in Colorado with my cat and a Rottweiler and photographing soccer tournaments and pets for a living. It was a fun way to rediscover myself at age 51.

    New Traditions - Oct-Nov Winner!

        "We hike on Thanksgiving," Heather said. "Up to the lake and back. It's only a couple of miles and it's been a tradition since the boys were five. Think of it as your new tradition," she laughed. "One you might really enjoy."

    Three inches of fresh snow lay powdered and blowing on the deck outside her kitchen window.

    A bitter wind picked at the plastic that covered the back door.

    Ice glittered from every bare branch within eyeshot. It was cold outside. Darn cold. It was "my butt will never thaw out if I go out in this" cold.

    I held warm hands over a hot cast iron wood stove and summoned the courage to be a good Thanksgiving guest. Most people enjoy football, sitting around a fire or television set with friends and conversation and munching on snacks. There's a lot to be said for that tradition, but now wasn't the time.

    "Sure!" I smiled. "I'm up for it."

    So my new friend Heather threw the Thanksgiving goose and a pumpkin pie into the oven and her two boys, three dogs and I set off to hike the frozen Colorado tundra while dinner cooked.

    I'd moved to Colorado from Tennessee a couple of years before and had spent the last two holidays alone, eating baloney sandwiches. Over the summer I had started taking martial arts classes to get in shape and met Heather and her boys there. When Thanksgiving rolled around that year I was thrilled to have someplace to go - even if that meant hiking up a small mountain in zero temps after an ice storm.

    Somewhere along the path I started to actually warm up. The dogs and Heather too, all slipped on the frozen earth and the slick patches of ice, so I didn't feel so bad - until we crested the hill and started down to the small lake and the frozen mounds around the edge.

    "What are those?"  I asked. "They look like ice sculptures."

    Far ahead of us, the dogs ran from lump to lump. The boys, close behind them, saw the lake first.

    "Lake's frozen!" they shouted.

    Indeed it was. Small whitecaps - some a foot or more high, had frozen in mid-wave. The effect was eerie, water whipped by high winds and flash-frozen as the waves curled on themselves. I could only imagine how bitterly, bitterly cold it had been the night before for water to freeze in mid-wave. I was grateful that camping along the lake was not a tradition as well.

    As we got closer the lumps took on recognizable shapes - they were geese - frozen in clumps as they slept or huddled near the water. The sun had begun to rise, melting the ice enough to make it transparent, the feathers somewhat visible.

    "Are they alive?" I asked as we got reached them.

    "Can we break them out of the ice?" We reached down where the first of 50 or more goose-shaped forms began. Two lone feathers fluttered from one side and through the ice I could see more.

    "They must be alive," Heather said, staring at one of the forms.

    "They're gone."

    I walked around to where she stood. Water from the lake had whipped up and over the birds where they'd slept. On the backside where the water had not reached, the birds were able to break free of their icy casts. Feathers, pulled from wings as they struggled out of the icy prisons, remained trapped in the ice, but the birds themselves were gone.

    We made sure, walking from ice goose to goose, all the way around the small lake, checking each glittering cave. At each grouping the struggle was different. Here was a perfectly shaped hollow, the form and shape of a goose bill evident in the ice; there was a three-goose sized cave. Each structure was different. Some geese left webbed prints in the snow or ice. Others left feathers. All left impressions of a wing, a breast, and an essence.

    Silent, we made our way back down the hill and into the cabin where the smell of roast goose and pumpkin pie filled the air. Then we ate and we laughed and we marveled over the wonders of nature and the ice geese and the warmth of a wood stove and the joy of being with friends.

    My butt did thaw out after a couple of hours standing beside the fire. My stomach full of goose and wine and pie, I slept on the couch that night, overlooking the deck and the path to the mountain. I pulled my sleeping bag up over my shoulders and sighed, thankful, so thankful for new traditions.

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