Category Archives: Hill Dog Writes

The Hill Dog Writes is a collection of writings by The Hill Dog.

A time to plant


Unless one walks through the neighborhood asleep, season’s progression is obvious. The changes may be subtle, yet always evident.

As Spring ages, grass richens to a slightly darker shade of green, tree buds, that from a distance seemed tinged orange, eventually shed that husk revealing pale yellow new growth.

Some rusty lilac buds have already burst to purple. Fiddle head ferns have pushed themselves up through warming soil. Violets and trout lilies carpet the forest floor. Dandelions seem determined to overwhelm green meadows with yellow, but, this too shall pass.

Humans, who benefit from paying attention to such things, punctuate seasons by plowing, harrowing, and sowing. Indeed, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity…”

One realizes as they awaken that nature can always be trusted to prompt us to behaviours appropriate to time, circumstance, and season.




Generally speaking, It’s been an unseasonably warm winter, with unusually little snowfall. Even so, the crew at Elk’s hard work has kept the conditions better than you’d imagine. As other eastern resorts from the Mid-Atlantic up into New England have closed due to lack of snow, skiing at Elk this season has been excellent.

A few inches of dry dusty snow accumulated in the neighborhood this week, whitening the scenery, making it look and feel more like a proper winter.

Still a couple inches short of dog snow, more is forecasted for tonite. My canine roommate and I remain hopeful enough will fall for a ski outing on the trails we’ve been tending and hiking in boots since last autumn.

The first run down the Slalom trail on Elk the morning after the snowfall just as dawn broke, floating down through these few inches of snow,  made me forget.

Made me forget to think about turning. I observed as the skis, my self, the snow, and gravity, seemingly operating outside my consciousness, conspired and flowed down the mountain, etching the karma of their collaboration onto the surface of the snow.

The next run, and the next, and the next made me forget that it is cold out. Made me forget that the winter has been warm. Made me forget to take a bathroom break. Made me forget the  weight loaded into my thighs by countless turns. Made me forget that I’m more than middle-aged.

The ground hog forecasted that spring is right around the corner. He’s been wrong before.

Even though late winter may get better than imagined, right now is the best this winter has offered: good wintry weather, music all over The Hill Friday and Saturday, lodging and dining specials for romantical Valentine’s Day Sunday, and President’s Day on Monday.

Yup, it might get even better, but seems most prudent to get out on The Hill this holiday weekend, and enjoy!





First Ride


The first chair lift ride of the morning up Elk Mountain is sometimes nothing less than mystical.

Before the throngs of skiers load the lift, chatting about this or that, there is quiet.

The soft rumble as chairlift chairs glide along the only sound. Birds, squirrels, and other beings are used to this sound, and go about their morning business oblivious to the first few humans that ride the chairlift  up the mountain.

The chairlift affords a great perspective of the mountain and it’s critters as they awaken for the day. Squirrels scurry this way and that, carrying pine cones in their mouths. Crows call to each other, announcing their presence to each other, and maybe, the location of a tasty tidbit for them and their friends to share.

Deer can sometimes be seen traversing the slopes on their way to find breakfast.

Sky casts horizontal light, sometimes pale dawn pink, sometimes gold, across the slopes as sun breaches the horizon described by neighboring Catskills.

Along with the critters, one can sense that the mountain itself awakens.

Elk Mountain is a place where many people, enjoy that wonderful combination of gravity, winter, and physical exertion.

Quiet times on the mountains can provoke a more reflective demeanor. For some of the Native American tribes for whom the ski trails have been named, and for some of us who continue to cherish it’s residents, woods and slopes each morning, Elk is a sacred place.

Flowing Stream


After walking  through tangled woods, the view above reveals.

Water flows across stone, wears it away.

Water tumbles into itself, steams into air.

Soft murmured hush, washes through ears.

Water too dark, water too bright, fills eyes completely.

Nature nurtures our senses.

Beyond self, divine calm, comfort, courses through us all.






Holiday Scene


Some holiday seasons are as Norman Rockwell as they get. Bracing temperatures and plenty of mood snow.

Other years… not so much.

Regardless of prevailing weather or one’s religious or philosophical persuasion, rain or snow outside shouldn’t affect the climate inside one’s heart.

This year is a great opportunity to brighten the holidays by shining extra strong the light that illuminates us all.



Frosted Twigs

Frosted Twigs
Frosted Twigs

Back in November, I was lunching at Chet’s Place when a bunch of skiers came in. I overheard snippets of their conversations: “I guess I’ll take up golf for the Winter”. “No snow even up North… maybe I’ll go out West before Christmas…”

I was confused at first as to what this panic was all about. I never pay much attention to the weather until the last week of November, or the first week of December. If, like some years,  we’ve had some snow by then, fine. If not, then I may get at some more outside chores before they become blissfully unreachable, buried in snow.

The snow crew at Elk are such experts at operating their state of the art snowmaking facilities, that they can make skiable much of the mountain with only a very few days of sub-freezing weather. Why hope for natural snow any earlier than December?

Noting the continued absence of snow, someone remarked that old farmers wisdom dictates that “Snow won’t stay till the ponds are full”. So, patience ensued. It then rained, and rained some more; the ponds became brimming. Yet no snow.

The now saturated ground, under the influence of temperatures that could be described as ‘balmy’ has given rise to a kind of daily uncomfortable humidity. Lately, the air seems thick with moisture – very much like when Spring sunlight coaxes the moisture out of the last of Winter’s snow pack.

Earlier this week, under the influence of freezing temperatures, that humidity bound itself to the forest. The first rays of morning sunlight illuminated branches causing some to look as if studded with diamonds, others, the frost mimicking the velvet on a buck’s antlers.

Some Winters that begin like this, limp through till Spring, soggy and drab. I’ve also seen Winters that begin like this change, as if someone turned a light switch burying us in more snow than what seemed likely early on.

My prediction? I’ll let you know in March.






Sun Dog Cloud


Not sure the source of the interesting configuration above – complete with a divine spark of the colors of the rainbow – a little sun dog. Maybe an airplane flew through disrupting the cloud bank, or maybe a river of wind, a current in the ocean of sky.

It’s nice to enjoy a sight that doesn’t happen every day. Gratitude for observing something so uncommon lessens the importance of determining it’s exact nature.

During this time of giving thanks, or expressing gratitude, it’s good to remember that some believe “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true” is more than just a saying, it is truth; whatever is in mind now is most likely to occur in one’s future.

Others believe that, even more so than wishing, gratitude determines the course of our lives – what we are grateful for is most likely to present in one’s future.

One can be grateful for the roof over their head, or wish for a bigger roof over a bigger house. Some wish that family or friends were always agreeable. Some are grateful for having  folks, even if sometimes contrary, in their life at all.

Always a good idea, but during this holiday in particular, be careful what you wish for; be grateful for what you want more of.












Season’s Apples


Probably the main reason I love living here is that it is such a sensuous place. Given the season’s abundance of tasty pears and apples right in her very own back yard, dog undoubtedly agrees.

Certainly our community experiences fear, disappointment, illness, and death, same as humans and animals anywhere. However, the soft curves of the hills in which we dwell, limitless starry nights, clean water, vegetables, fruits and berries, eatable right off the tree or vine, makes the description “paradise” to be not much of an exaggeration.

Situated at such a latitude and elevation, near extremes of what this planet offers weather-wise, from blizzards to hurricanes, visit here. Over the past half-century, I’ve stood on the same hill and felt temperatures from over 100 to below minus 20 degrees.

Tropical islands show much less variation. In December, the average temperature may be 86, in July 88. In deserts, the monotony of monochromatic, arid weather is punctuated by blossoms of powerful colors, though the interval between the rainfalls that provoke their appearance may be years, decades, or centuries.

I imagine people living near the equator tune to the narrow contrasts there, and experience the subtleties of that climate every bit as distinctly and pleasurably as do I those here on the hill. Wherever anyone is on this planet, day darkens to night and night yields to dawn. Yet even this common occurrence, dependent on where you are, ranges in length from hours to months.

There can come a beneficial insight from the process of imagining what it would feel like to live in a different body, or in a faraway place, or to appreciate current circumstances from the perspective of longer than one human lifetime.

Raw November


After weeks of hills bursting in vibrant autumnal colors under gentle skys, and specatacular star laden nights, it is raw November.

Coincident with man decreed daylight savings time, the progression of season conspires, deprives light.

Forty more dawns come later and later, forty more sunsets earlier and earlier, forty more nights longer and longer.

Apple tree, laden in Summer, wears a handful of apples stubbornly clinging to rain soaked branches.

It’s butternut neighbor, nourishing fewer and fewer branches the past few years, succumbs to feeding fungus; a harbinger that, as some of their companions already have, limbs will wither until wind or heavy snow dashes them to the ground.

Be this our only image of the year, one’s mood could jeopardize. Mindfullness of all seasons evidences that fungus, branches and apples process to soil, flowers, and trees.

When light without diminishes, spirit within augments, makes us conscious that just as dark implies light, freezing drops crystallize to flakes, somber clouds clarify to limitless blue skies.

For some, each dawn, one day closer to cherished Winter, for others, one day closer to glorious Spring.

Autumn Squall


The squall in the neighborhood last weekend, though short lived, brought to mind winters past. I was enthused to see the first flakes as I wondered if the grass, still green from summer, felt cold as the snow pelted it or if it simply endured, indifferent to the change of season.

There is a plant in the livingroom that lives in a glass container filled with water. It survived my self imposed “Winter of Cold”, a few years ago. I had been inspired by a friend’s admission that the climate during the winter in his trailer home was not much different than “advanced winter camping”. With my remembered fondness of sleeping in a tent in the snow, along with my pursuit of economy, I kept the thermostats set at 52.

I mated two down filled sleeping bags and used them as a comforter on my bed. During the day, I rambled around the house in down filled outerwear. The olive oil in the kitchen cupboard clouded. My back spasmed frequently. The only other plant in the house died. The dog’s breath was always visible. The few visitors during that winter never took off their coats; even so, no one stayed very long.

Now, having found that keeping the house that cold was a false economy, the thermostats are set more reasonably. Back spasms much less frequently, and, not seeing the dog’s breath makes things feel much more comfortable.

“Is it real? The roots in the water look natural, but the leaves look so perfect, artificial.” said a visitor about the livingroom plant. “That plant looks so happy – it has found it’s window!” said another recently.

I don’t feel that the plant and I have an extraordinarily close relationship. I simply maintain water above it’s roots, and rotate it in front of the window when its’ yearning toward the light postures it asymetrically. Yet, I am grateful it did not die in the “Winter of Cold”, and, given its’ steadfast companionship through dark times, I have developed somewhat of an affection for it.

They say plants like it, benefit, when you talk to them. I can’t really remember ever talking to the plant. I have, however thought at it with gratitude for it’s loyalty, and admiration for it’s capacity and resolve to survive.

Makes me wonder if plants think, or do they respond more to feeling. Some kind of process or intelligence must occur: the plant senses more bright than dark, and somehow adjusts it’s growth, turning it’s leaves, favoring facing the light.

No language, no philosophy, no hidden agenda corrupts this behaviour.

Regardless of other prevailing conditions, plants sense brighter or darker and so grow only toward or away.

A simple way to live; a sure way to thrive.