It snowed a couple nights ago. Road crews were out trying to make the roads unslippery. I met a former co-worker grocery shopping and mentioned I hadn’t yet pulled out my snowthrower or even a snow shovel. Where he lives, he said, a borough ordinance requires him to shovel snow – even when the wind would blow it away quicker and cleaner – from his sidewalk.
I once lived where there were no ordinances requiring that I keep my sidewalk cleared. Of course, I had no sidewalk. Winters when the need to shovel snow was indicated by snow piled up, 24 or more inches at a time, outside the kitchen door.
I have not yet pulled out my snowthrower. Foolishly, perhaps, I am counting on the Allegheny Mountains to keep from my door the 102 inches already dumped on Erie and other parts to my north and east.
I learned the value of snow fences when I was a kid. Farmers would stretch the fences, looking like rows of wire-bound two-inch slats, across their fields, about 20-30 feet from and parallel to the road. Wind would blow the snow across the pasture, against the fence, up and over, to drop it down on the opposite side – the side nearer the road – where it “drifted,” into a wall sometimes eight to 10 feet tall.
This spring was a record-breaking season for attendance at the annual Mount Hope Maple Madness, held at Camp Eder, on Mount Hope Road, Hamiltonban Township. The event was staged by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, an environmental education facility a short distance from Camp Eder.
Folks from miles around showed up to learn about maple syrup making, and to enjoy some of the sweet, sticky nectar on hot pancakes.
The wind was blowing strongly but invisibly when we arrived at the breakfast place. Later, our morning hunger sated, we exited the establishment into a wind speckled with seeds of the impending season.
Not enough to whiten the grass, but snow, nonetheless. For my part of the planet, four days before Thanksgiving is early, even for snow that does not stick.
Wind blowing across the frozen lake has carved a thin layer of snow into hard-packed ripples, like white mud that has flowed down a hill during spring thaw. The granddaughter and her young friend make tracks across the ripples, then take running starts to slide across the ice where the snow has blown clear and polished the glassine surface.
It’s downright balmy out as I consider these thoughts. The thermometer claims about 45 F, and there’s a breeze blowing across what is left of a 30-inch blizzard that blanketed us just over a week ago. The raised-garden frames, themselves only about 10 inches high, are well exposed. There is weather outside my window, and it’s not bad.
My mother used to watch the weather forecast every night. She would announce, “It’s time for the news,” and take her place on the end of the couch.
But it wasn’t the news that interested her. She would talk through the news. In fact, one could say when the news was on TV was the time for news of the family and people we knew. One might call it “back fence time,” only we didn’t have a back fence, and if we had, there were no neighbors close enough to lean on it.
“The sky is falling!” That’s the cry around my home whenever the rain or snow comes down upon us. Tuesday afternoon, the sky was falling in a great white cloud of snow. Fifteen minutes after it began, it was over, leaving white patches on the still-green grass where the ground was a little colder than other places.
The mini-blizzard lasted long enough for a little girl whose home I passed on the way home to put on her coat with the hood and dash outside. She jumped off the porch to the sidewalk and, tilting her head up with her tongue out as far as it would stretch, started catching snowflakes.
I‘ve often wondered about the link between television weather guys and grocery supermarkets.
The thought came to me one evening when I lived in Maine and went to visit a friend about 45 miles from our home. The visit was to be a birthday celebration, after which we would stay overnight – the latter plan, in part, because the television weather guy had proclaimed a wicked storm would occur whilst we slept.
A friend told me this week it has been so cold where she lives, kids have been complaining their cell phone keypads have been freezing. They have had to wait until second period before the keys have thawed enough they can be used to text the youngster across the aisle to set a lunch meeting in the school cafeteria.
Being without a working cell phone is rough, but I guess it is all relative. I bet my daughter remembers being unable to satisfactorily explain the necessity of tying up the home phone to talk to friends with whom she had just spent the day at school. Even that was B.C. – Before Cell.
I was sitting here doing what I do when I heard a truck backup alarm on my street. There are not many trucks with backup alarms on this street, so I got up to peek out the window – to see the Cumberland Township plow stopped, and the driver walking back to where a neighbor was helping an 80-something gent back to his house through the snow.
A few days ago, the first Eastern Bluebird of the season wandered into the yard. I watched as what I am pretty sure was a Tufted Titmouse sat on a branch and dug a peanut from its shell. I’ve been told robins have been seen in Littlestown. It’s seasonal shift change in the bird kingdom.
Winters of my youth I remember being way more snowy than those of more recent vintage. I mentioned to an old guy one day that as cold and snowy as it now seems, there was a time when by late October the snow would came up to my, uh, posterior.
He offered the possibility that my posterior was closer to the ground in those days – but I remember being 17 and one afternoon at the start of hunting season pushing my way downhill through the snow below Bates’ farm, hoping to flush a deer out of the pines at the edge of the pasture. Instead, I bagged a pair of Partridge for dinner.
The sun is well up as I write this, and still the temperature has climbed only to plus-two degrees Fahrenheit.
You know it’s cold when even in still air you generate enough wind just by walking to frostbite your forehead as the air flows between your wool stocking cap and your sunglasses. New-fallen snow is dry and fluffy, and squeaks beneath your winter boots or snow tires.
The past week I have largely occupied my time dusting off memories. Literally. Like me, even in a box they collect mold and dust. Unlike me, I can use a soft brush to remove the bulk of the blemishes.
Stacked beside my table are a dozen Carousel trays, most of them full or nearly so, each capable of holding 40, 80 or 140 “slides” – color transparencies recording glimpses of my path to here, including images of Hong Kong mixed with frames of Sicily and Italy and Germany and Thailand, the memories stirred like a marbled cake.
I don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.
I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for South-Central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.
I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.