A suggestion of winter

An early spring stream.I fired up my snowthrower Wednesday. The temperature was 70 F, and robins crowded the yard at the edge of the wood.

The weatherman says up to eight inches of snow is to fall on my house Thursday. The sun is supposed to come back out and by Friday have melted the snow away. My snowthrower’s gas tank is half full from last year. I wonder how much fuel I’ll use on Winter Storm Niko.

Snow and ice are making life grand for auto body repair shops in the upper Midwest; the nightly news features a new 50-car pileup almost every night. I wonder whether there will be snow in Gettysburg. WGAL-TV weatherman Joe Calhoun says the storm has picked up speed, and maybe will be nearly gone by the time the cold northern air blankets our area. If there is no cold when the precipitation falls, it will be rain.

The hint of coming winter has me thinking of winters left behind. Winters when, for instance, snow piled up 24 inches at a time between October and February — and then came the really big storms. Winters when March really did roar in like a lion, and tiptoe out like a lamb.

But lately, heavy, short-lived spring snowstorms are not exactly an unheard of scenario, though the heat is a bit out of the ordinary. Soon after I arrived in Gettysburg in March 1998, I woke one Sunday to 14 inches of new fallen white stuff. I thought I might have the day off to cavort around in slippery parking lots. By Monday, most of the snow was gone.

With a few notable exceptions, winters have become mild imitations of those that marked my youth. This time last year, granddaughter and a friend and the dogs went running across a certain local lake. Though it’s been a few years, I recall the fun of running barefoot through the snow, chasing my now-adult granddaughter.

“You guys are crazy,” her mom commented.

Mom was right, but it was fun, anyway. This year, the grass at the edge of the wood still is green. Wet green grass is colder than snow.

When I was a youngster, heavy snows began before Thanksgiving. We’d get a couple feet of the white stuff, plow a half-mile driveway with a Jeep until Dad was too tired to find the Jeep or the driveway, then sleep a few hours and get up early to do it again. Before school.

If they’d closed school then the way they do now, there’d never have been a question about summer school. But I was smaller then than now, and lighter. Snowbanks were six feet high by early January. March and April sunshine melted hard crusts on the surface of the pack, and my brother and I would run through the woods across the top. It is early February, and down here off the ridge, we have yet to see the first inch of snow.

I’m looking forward to a paddle down Marsh Creek. I bought a new kayak last spring, and broke my arm before I had chance to get it on the creek a second time.

I need to send for new registration stickers for the canoe, and probably for the kayak. Neither is motorized, so I think stickers are required only if I want to avoid paying launch fees on certain public waters. But I do not mind making the donation to give me access to wild places to explore, when the water is just a bit less suggestive of winter.

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