Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Exacts a Hefty Fee for Her Beauty- a Veteran’s View

(We just shoveled and plowed and salted our way out from under an epic blizzard and, although I wrote this last year, it came back to mind as I watched the drifts pile up hip-height and the plow struggle mightily to get "unstuck" from our driveway.)

Where I live winter is the greediest of seasons grabbing hold in November she often doesn’t let go her grasp till March is completely played out and an April snow fall is not unusual.

So- here I stand - in nearly two feet of drifting snow. (NEW snow- on top of the several inches of ice covered, rock solid, brittle and broken snow that  remain after a partial thaw and a couple of weeks of single digit temperatures with sub-zero wind chills <BUT, I digress>)
...Where was I?

Oh, nearly two feet of new snow (right! - focus)  in my 50-somethingth winter in the north and I can tell you that the beauty of snow is a fleeting thing and that after 77th or 108th or 254th or (well, you get the idea) time one has to get on the road at 6:00am (before the plows are even up) and drive over snow-covered, icy roads placing your safety and your life at the whim of mother nature and in the hands of other drivers the romance begins to pale a bit as well. The shine comes off that new snow feeling pretty quickly.

Where I live we don’t shut down for snow. We wonder if the plows will be out early or all night but we go to work. Schools may close for a day (if the snow started past midnight and there’s enough of it and the plows and busses couldn’t get on the road) but not for a week, never for a week. It’s just snow! (Random small factoid inserted for your edification: Did you know that car seat manufacturers don’t certify the safety and efficacy of the seat for a child wearing a winter coat? Our kids can either be safe or warm…not both.) Around here even Pizza Hut stays open (talk about essential services, right?)!

The first snow (even the first couple of snows) of any season always casts it’s seductive coat over the landscape and I look out and say…”it IS pretty” and “if I didn’t have to drive in it…”  and “well, we’ll have a white Christmas anyway”.

It is ALWAYS beautiful (while it is falling and immediately thereafter). It is ALWAYS breath-taking to see the world blanketed so thoroughly in crisp, icy white. It is ALWAYS fun to get out in it with a small-person booted and bundled and mittened and make snow angels. A few inches of the stuff (that means 6 or less around here) while temperatures hover in the balmy twenties can even can even be fun to first…when you still have somewhere to go with it and it’s only the first, or the second, or the third time that year that you have shoveled.  (With this last storm the drifting was so deep in front of our house that the front doors were hard to open and we now have 5 and 6 foot piles at the end of the driveway and along side the garage courtesy of the neighbor’s Bob-cat <yes, it took small construction equipment to dig out this time>).

There is another always to add this list of beautiful always(s). It is ALWAYS going to thaw and freeze and get dirty and get snowed over again and make parking lots un-navigable and country lanes narrow and intersections hazardous and it’s gonna be cold, cold, cold.

Then there it is going to thaw for real. Not the fake thaws that fool you into thinking it might be over and maybe that was the last of it. No-o-o-o, not those thaws. This is THE SPRING THAW (the one after that freak storm in late March or even April) that brings with it the black, gravel infused piles of compressed snow that seem like they are never going to melt. Oh, and the flooding, that’s always fun as well. Let’s not forget the beauty of the debris that got frozen into the strata of each snow storm and now melts down along roadways and walkways and in your yard (not just modern waste and litter either- in really snowy years <when the accumulation of the white stuff out-paced me and the scooper>I could watch the dog poop break the surface as the sun shone it's melty-face on the dirty white expanse and remark to myself “Oh, looks like she DID eat that tinsel back in December, huh!”). Additionally, at least where I live, we use gravel and salt together in the interest of both ecology and economy (a good idea on both counts) that results in an ever increasing (again due to the timeline of individual storms preserved in the melting strata) coating of gravel on almost all roadways and verges and carried down the driveway on car tires and in the garage and brought into the house on shoes and boots and paws. Finally there is the certain, sure feeling that it will never, ever be warm or green or clean or ice free again.

And then it is.

Almost overnight it seems that spring finally, gloriously arrives and winter (unbelievably) begins to fade and I remember why anyone would live here (coz you see, by this time I’m pretty much greeting every day with the thought “Why do I live here again? <Aside from the whole family and friends part>?).

I live here for the other seasons: the glorious Springs, the hot-hot-hot Summers, the spectacular Falls and (a little-tiny bit) for the snowy, brutal winters. I just wish winter didn’t take up so much of our year and I wish it only snowed on the grass and REALLY, does it need to get below zero?? Really?? Is that necessary?

So, I do make lemonade but I heat it up and add honey and make it into a toddy.  

***Oh, by the way, we’re expecting six to nine more inches tonight and on into the Monday morning commute. Fun, huh?

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