Snow pants. Boots. Coat. Hat. Mittens.
The gingerbread boys are building a snow fort, complete with spy holes, so she decides to walk down to the pond to visit the fish. She doesn't know if there are even any fish in there still, but she wants to walk, so down the path she goes.
Last year, they moved their poor lone fish, Angst, inside for the winter. His fishy antics kept her company while she tippety-tap typed on her laptop. When spring came, they returned him to the pond, along with several other new fishy friends.
Sadly, Angst didn't make it through the summer. At least she thinks he didn't. She hasn't seen him in a long time. Maybe he made a break for freedom through the trench leading from the pond to the stream. She doesn't know. He could be hiding under the lily pad, though his bright orange bulk would be hard to disguise.
This year, disheartened by the fate of Angst, they didn't collect Cardinal, Goldene, Blackie, and the rest. Survival of the fittest, she thinks. Emotional attachment to a 29 cent Wal-mart feeder fish is an entanglement sometimes better left alone.
She arrives at the pond, but there are no fish to be seen--big surprise--so she keeps walking, following the trench to the stream. It's nearly frozen, a thin skin formed over the trickling water. Mounds of snow are heaped up on the banks, and the evidence of both deer and little boys dot the snowy land, their tracks leading out in lines and circles. She's relieved to see that the tracks of the little boys go to the tree that bridges the stream, but no farther.
She turns around and decides to blaze a trail through the deep snow to the ford. How much easier this would be in snow shoes, she thinks.
But not as much fun.
She feels like a little girl again, ten or eleven, snow pants and all, crunching through the top layer of frozen snow to the fluff beneath, sinking down, and slogging through. When she reaches the ford, she's a bit breathless, and there's a mound of snow where the sitting stone should be, so she sits down, and the snow holds her. She leans back, looking out at the snow-covered forest. How beautiful this all is--the trees, the white hills and valleys of snow, the blue hour as the sun sets.
She used to hate winter. But winter in a city is full of cloudy skies, slushy streets, and bitterly cold wind. Winter in farm country and forest is completely different. It's all shades of brilliant white. The sun shines here, the snow sparkles, and inside, there's always a fire in the wood stove. She lies on her back, and looks up at the sky. She's surrounded by peace. She needs to go back, but she wants to stay here a little bit longer, in this cocoon of peace where the only sound is the faint trickle of the stream.
The gingerbread man calls to her, following her footprints to where she lies in the snow. He reminds her that the sled run he built needs to be broken in. She passed it on her walk to the ford: it dives down the trail, twists from side to side, before shuttling through two saplings toward the stream. The gingerbread boys are now up in a pine tree somewhere, hollering out to whomever is around.
Dinner can wait. She takes the red sled and decides to stay eleven for a bit longer.