The snow is falling out of the sky in every possible direction. Flakes of various sizes, few weighty enough to make it to the ground, are drifting and dropping by my window at different speeds and angles. It’s as if even the snow is confused by the ferocity of this year’s winter. So much of it already blankets roofs and yards, with drifts as high as our mailbox, you have to wonder where the next round is going to find room to land.
The winter break this year has felt like one continuous snow event as the prevailing temps have prevented melting even on the few days it hasn’t snowed. The kids have lost count of how many times they’ve shoveled the driveway and the deck and removed snow from under the windows and off the lowest eaves of the roof. Vestiges of snows typically evaporate within days because the air rarely stays cold enough to preserve them. Sledding and snowmen generally require immediate action because they are so very shortlived.
Winters here were not always this way. My childhood was full of snowball fights and snow forts and snowfolks who hung around long enough to make a fashion statement in the yard by sporting someone’s old hat and scarf. Car tires were encased in webs of chain to permit steady movement down streets that by and large remained unplowed.
In fact, it was cold enough long enough throughout those winters for my father to invest in ice skates for my younger brother and me and take us skating in the evenings on a local pond. We would skim gingerly across the rough ice, stopping periodically to warm our hands over fires set in metal barrels scattered around the edges of the pond. We’d drink hot chocolate when we finished and watch my dad expertly wing his way around the pond a few times by himself before we left.
During a particularly temperate winter a few years back, I wondered if I had merely dreamed these outings when I realized this pond had not frozen over to support ice skating in at least twenty years.
We do tend to find ways to spend whatever snow we have, though. One afternoon last year, my husband slithered on his stomach through the snow at the creek’s edge with some modicum of stealth so he could capture photographs of a red-tailed hawk devouring a rabbit carcass. While this effort ultimately yielded a fascinating documentary of nature, graphically red in tooth and claw, it was later determined that these images were far more suitable for display in his office than in the family room.
This year, he elected to take our dog Duncan on what was ostensibly to be a walk or perhaps a prance on the snow-covered path running parallel to the creek. Instead, the dog momentarily frolicked unfettered in the snow and then spontaneously turned it into a gallop through the frigid creek waters, drenching himself in a semi-frozen concoction of burrs and mud. Needless to say, a warm bath ensued upon his arrival home.
You must understand how grossly uncharacteristic this was for Duncan to be so adventurous in the snow. Normally, he seems to think he’ll melt should he venture beyond the backdoor on a snowy day. He makes a couple of runs at it, and, finally, when his bladder convinces him otherwise, he tentatively places a paw onto the deck, glancing back with some trepidation before he gets up his courage and charges down the steps.
Now Nigel and Miranda, they were some serious snow dogs. As a toddler, my son marveled at their playfulness on snowy days as he pressed his nose against the sliding glass door and watched them nuzzle under and then romp through the drifts. My son drew the line at ingesting snow, however, and never failed to call them out on it. “Dogs eat (s)no000000w. Ewwwww!” he’d proclaim when he caught them in the act.
But because the inordinate cold this year has left the snow a dry white powder rather than a brownish grey slush, I’ve not yet reached the point of despair which typically arrives sometime in February when consecutive days of cloud cover tamp down my spirit and endless puddles of sludge cake my car with a thick film of dirt. T. S. Elliott can say whatever he likes about April being the cruelest month; at Flat Rock Creek, February gets my vote hands down.
So, although my suede boots already bear salt lines from my trudges through the grocery store parking lot and the temperature is barrelling down to below zero, for the moment I’m still enjoying winter in my warm, cozy office which offers out its window yet another serene view of the snow, as of now undisturbed by dog paws or rabbit tracks.