The field was beautiful during the night of the “Blizzard of ’17.” White light suffused the forest, almost as though under a full moon, but without shadows from the leafless trees, making the very air seem to glow. In another life, on a night like that, I would have sallied forth with a snowthrower and cleared the half-mile between the hard road and my house, the snow muting the machine’s rumble, making the walk through the timber feel like virtual reality with the sound turned off.
Guiding the snowthrower is not effortless, but it’s certainly more fun than shoveling. And when the storm is spring-snow heavy, as it was Monday night and Tuesday morning, the machine is quieter than some guy cussing as he tried to toss heaping shovels-full over the bank. In some places, said the fellow on television, snow was light and blowy, making drifts around parked cars and the corners of houses, blowing the white powder back into the road from where the blade with the flashing lights had cast it.
Here at my edge of the woods, the flakes morphed into chunks one could almost hear thud to the ground, each one packing the one below it until they were piled more than 12 inches high all around. I stepped out to the snowthrower and nearly walked across the top of the densely piled frozen water.
Being honest means admitting I never enjoyed shoveling snow as much as the kid in me enjoyed driving the machine. Our son went out with his son and built a six-year-old-size igloo the way, as a kid, my brother and I dug caves in the banks left by the plows.
Meanwhile, the wind is blowing frigid now, two days after the storm. The temperature is 24 F, but feels more like 9 F. Northern Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees take turns at the feeders. The juncos clean up seed scattered on the hard-packed snow, while a half-dozen starlings cluster around the suet block. Just before the storm, a few Tufted Titmouse posed in the dogwood outside my window, and a Northern Mockingbird stopped by, apparently to grab some grub on his way from wherever he was to wherever he intended to be.
Like the avian critters that keep my feeders from sprouting, I, too, am ready for winter to be gone – though they long to build a nest, and I want to get out of the one that has imprisoned me the past few months. I long for a walk on the trails of South Mountain, and my camera and I have an appointment with a certain body of water in a secluded greenwood.
The canoe lies across a pile of pallets, waiting patiently to be slid into a creek while the water is high enough to allow more than a hundred yards paddling between portages. Tie-down straps, flotation vests and lines are checked and stored in a plastic tub, to be secured in the back of the Outback for the trip to water. Paddles are stacked together, waiting to be re-introduced to their respective watercraft.
It was not difficult last week becoming used to 70-degree days, and flowers blooming in the forest and around the house. One day during that warm spell, I went with a friend to take water samples, and watched as stoneflies hatched, swam to the surface, and headed for land, where they took wing. It was a magical sight.
There is plenty more out there to see. Just give me a sunny day. I feel my cabin fever breaking even now.