[Originally ran in the March 2015 issue of The Village.]
While composing columns for a monthly publication, one is always aware of the time lapse between the writing of them and their appearance in print, and the possibility of the subject matter becoming irrelevant, even though the subject matter is often irrelevant the moment the words appear one after another on one’s laptop monitor, but that’s an entirely different concern, and one that we mustn’t dwell upon.
The point is, I’m confident that the subject matter of this month’s offering – the obscene amount of wintry precipitation we’ve been pummeled by – will not be a faded memory by the time it arrives at your doorstep, or, shall I say, the seven-foot-tall ice-encrusted snowy mound that used to be your doorstep.
As I write this piece (February 9), it is snowing outside my window, the only comfort being that it is not snowing inside my window, which, at this point, wouldn’t be a surprise. In fact, that might be convenient, in that I would no longer be troubled to put on my coat and boots and hat and gloves every few hours to go outside and shovel the devil’s dandruff; I could simply wear that get-up continually until April. Mid- to late-April, no doubt.
Snow is delightfully atmospheric in December, as many – including myself – have become programmed to dream of a white Christmas. Many are the songs and poems that laud snow’s nearly magical powers, including John Greenleaf Whittier’s beautiful and melancholy Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl, from 1866:
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,
A universe of sky and snow!
That’s all well and good, but come January, I begin to eye snowstorms with an unpoetic eye. I fully understand that I live in Maine and that snowy winters are typically part of the bargain, but I am also fully aware that just as people who live in the Amazon are entitled to complain about the humidity and people who live in the Mojave Desert are entitled to complain about the heat, we are equally entitled to complain about our own obvious weather. It’s what we do. Here, griping while trudging belt-deep through snow with a roof rake in one’s hand is all part of the joy of the coming of spring. Even my plow guy has said he’s had enough.
Yet while I believe snow (and the subsequent labors involved in removing it) to be grouse-worthy, I fail to find it newsworthy. This winter, it seems that most newscasts – both local and national – have led with weather-related stories, most often dealing with snowfall in the northern states, as though informing the public of snow in winter will somehow enlighten them on a matter they would otherwise be ignorant of. If we’re talking at least a couple feet of snow within 24 hours, sure, go right ahead and tell us, but otherwise, leave it for the weather forecast. I wonder which bona fide stories were shelved the days Buffalo was going to get hit with yet another foot of snow.
But enough about national matters; let’s talk about my driveway, which was last seen in early January. My aforementioned plow guy is very good, but the regularity and volume of precipitation made it inevitable that the asphalt would vanish under a white veneer. It’s OK; we’ll be reunited in the spring.
Usually I begin fantasizing about the spring in March, when it’s reasonable to expect an occasional spring-like day – a day in March when it’s still cold and snow is a possibility, but when the earth coyly gives hints of warmer times to come. Not this year.
This year, I suffered my first flash-forward the last week of January while shoveling the front walkway, or rather, smoothing out the snow-ramp. While bundled against the sub-zero winds, I imagined part of the driveway visible, puddles of melting snow glimmering in the finally-warm sun, robins chirping optimistically from the branches of the oak. I saw my gardens with all the leaves I didn’t quite get around to in the fall, and which I will happily rake once the leading edge of the ice shelf has retreated to Canada. I saw myself hopefully installing a new air filter in my lawn mower. I pictured my wife and myself watching the lead story on the evening news, of a rainstorm threatening coastal Maine with two inches of precipitation.
Oh, isn’t it pretty to think so?