Today is one of those beautiful crisp blue-sky days in Montana. It’s cold, but the wind’s not blowing. The meadow is covered in snow, and more treacherously, our pathway and road are covered in ice.
While it is a glorious day to see, it is difficult to walk or ski. We could probably skate more easily. We took the kids for a walk to get everyone out of the cabin, and it was rejuvenating and all. But cross country skiing is on my mind and I ache to go out for a quick tour.
My skis are leaning against the cabin, waiting for some fresh snow. In the meantime, we’ve been reading a favorite winter book by the much loved Swedish author, Elsa Beskow, Ollie’s Ski Trip, first published in 1907.
He comes across an extraordinary man dressed all in white as he is calling out his thanks to King Winter for the blessing of the beautiful snow. The man is not King Winter himself, but rather is Jack Frost. He agrees to take Ollie to see King Winter, and as they begin to head farther into the woods they are surprised to find a sniffling old woman holding an umbrella and a broom, surrounded by melting snow. Jack Frost harshly shoos her away much to poor Ollie’s shock.
That woman was Mrs. Thaw, and she was not due to come until spring to start cleaning up the snow but often gets confused and comes through early much to everyone’s chagrin.
They continue on to King Winter’s ice palace and have a wonderfully fun day with the young laborers there (children ostensibly in Santa’s elves’ role…hmmm…) sledding and skating and throwing snowballs.
When it’s time to move on, Ollie straps his skis back on and heads home to spend the rest of the winter skiing and skating with his younger brother until Mrs. Thaw returns, finally at the appropriate time, to prepare the ground for the lovely Spring.
Elsa Beskow’s writing is so beautifully old-fashioned. Of course, Ollie’s Ski Trip was written in a time before children in children’s books were colorfully cheeky or amusingly sassy. Or just rude. I guess for that matter, it’s not advisable these days for a young boy to follow a strange man all dressed in white into the woods under the guise of visiting an ice palace. Anyhow, I love the purity of her words and illustrations. Her pictures are detailed and yet reassuringly gentle. It’s a wonderful combination, and I’ll never tire of reading her books to my children.
And doesn’t that last picture kind of remind you of Miss Maple’s Seeds, by Eliza Wheeler? Perhaps Ms. Beskow was an inspiration for that book.
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Thanks, friends, I hope you’re finding this winter as beautiful as I am!