If you ever lived in a place where it gets really cold, you will know that the prettiest – and the coldest – winter nights are those where there are no clouds to cover the moon or the stars. It was one of those nights, December 31st to be precise, that I was in Estes Park, Colorado, staying at the YMCA of the Rockies with another family, and it fell to me to take the dog out one last time so she could relieve herself. Hannah, a huge furry gentle beast of a Leonberger, leaped up in delight when my hand touched her thin brown leather lead that was curled on the cabin’s kitchen counter. There was nothing she liked more than being outside in the cold weather, and I sometimes had to make her come back inside the house because I thought I would find her frozen in joyful repose some frigid night. Me, I was not a fan of the cold and snow. Its fun had long worn off, when snowball fights and snow forts and snow days and sledding were replaced by teeth-gritting sliding commutes, sidewalks and driveways that had to be shoveled, travel delays, broken tree limbs. Cold was just cold.

I bundled up with boots and my heavy parka, a knit hat, gloves, and a scarf while Hannah danced and tapped, eager to go out. “Alright, alright, alright,” I mock-rebuked her, “Out!” She pulled me to the cabin door, and I was careful not to let it bang shut, as not to wake the four sleeping children in the cabin, none of whom made it to midnight to ring in the New Year. The frigid air felt sharp and clean going into my lungs; the moisture in my nose got instantly crispy with a single sniff. We walked away from the cabin for a bit, the snow crackling and crunching under my feet and her paws. I told Han to “go potty,” which she actually did reliably on command, after sniffing out the most delightful spot to deliver her bowel blessing. I scooped up the poop logs with a plastic bag and tossed it into the garbage can by the side of the cabin. Although I knew that I was all in nature and in the mountains and stuff, I never thought it was right to leave Visiting Dog Craps just lying out there.

I called Hannah to come back inside with me, but I hesitated for a second and she plopped down in the snow, smiling and breathing out big happy clouds of dog steam. “Oh, okay,” I said to her, “Just a couple minutes,” like she was an indulged child. There was a large piece of granite nearby which made an excellent seat for me, provided I sat on my coat. The only light came from the table lamps from inside the cabin, and the moon.

The moon was so bright and so big, I thought, as I looked up. Wow! Look at all those stars! I could not tell what was a reflection of what – the sparkle of the cosmos in the inky midnight sky over me or the riotous parade of endless tiny diamonds in the snow below my feet, which I now just noticed. It was absolutely silent, save for the sound of the dog and me breathing and the slightest whoosh of air through the pine trees. I began to smile along with Hannah. It was so beautiful. We sat there a long time, she and I, considering the good in the world after a 2001 that had tested my ability to see anything good at all.

“Alright,” I spoke up when I started to feel a little too much towards frozen joy myself, “Let’s go.” Hannah got up, shook the fine dust of the snow off her fur, and we made our way back into the cabin.

A few hours later, I would become pregnant with MissSeven, after many months of trying and wondering at times after September if anyone should have any more children in such a world. The baby arrived at the end of September of 2002 to a family who heartily welcomed her and a huge furry dog who licked her new little cheek, once, with the most delicate kindness. And, I swear to you, she was born with a snowy starry sparkle in her eyes.