Starting the Christmas Week

2006-12-20 23:07:29.000 – Jon Cotton,  Observer

Presents Already

Why Christmas at 6288′ is Joyful and How I Won’t Talk to Neil Until Saturday

The occupants of Mt Washington total three this week. Neil came up to replace Jim on the day shift. No interns. There’s one person up from NH State Parks and we won’t have a volunteer until this weekend. Coming up is a couple very excited to spend Christmas on the peak. We’ll be excited to see them and feast for the holidays. But until then, it’s Neil and I driving on 12 hour shifts.

We aren’t going to talk to each other. I already started this policy by writing him a note today before he arrived. It was a list of things than I wanted him to cover for me in my slumbering absence at the summit staff shift change meeting. There was nothing personal about it, strictly business and he was instructed not to read its contents until the meeting proper.

Don’t mistake however, we are both excited to be here for Christmas and are simply saving up the joy. If joy and mirth are limited commodities, we’d better spend it where it counts. Why are we excited about our isolated perch on a wind howling summit? We will get more presents than anyone else at this latitude. If you are familiar with the flora of the alpine zone communities or have toured through our museum, you’ll know that every 1000 feet of elevation gain is the climatic equivalent of going roughly 300 miles north. Many of the flowers in the alpine zones of the White Mountains are quite rare here but plentiful in Labrador and Alaska (among other places). That’s one reason this place is so popular in June – when people and classrooms from afar come to view the tiny blooms of the diapensia, alpine azalea and others. The time of year when the Alpine Garden provides a spectacular color show of its name. To learn more from a non-profit with heavy involvement in the study and education of mountain ecology, visit the AMC’s Mountain Watch website.

If you were following along, you’ll notice that I deftly changed the conversation to summer flowers when the topic was clearly the winter holidays. Indeed. Much like the bounty of alpine flowers available here and no where else in New England based on the elevation/latitude correlation, we simply get more presents. Like families in Canada.

I mean there is another reason. Picture this, if you were piloting a sleigh from the north pole south flying past the eastern US you couldn’t help but notice the highest peak in the northeast. And we have lights on all night. AND we have a huge roof. Landing here for a pit stop is basically a no brainer. All those large bulky objects that don’t really fit in the sleigh and poke you in the back every time there’s a little turbulence? That’s no way to cruise the atmosphere…those items will get dropped off a little early. Have you seen the shapes our anemometers come in?

It’s already happening. I was sleeping all day. When I woke up, the kitchen was supplied with delicious treats. The table in the weather room (pictured) was loaded with wrapped packages. Sure, some of them are from our summer museum attendant Sunshine. Several more were from our business manager Paula. We have a few Christmas cards from local photographers and volunteers. Thank you all for the generosity. Thank you Paula for the massive Christmas bonus. What about the unlabeled packages sparkling upon my awaking? Thank you Santa. We’ll see you many more times in the coming week. The hot free-trade coffee will be ready and the door on the roof will be shoveled.


Jon Cotton,  Observer

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