Tag Archive 'snow'

Dec 05 2016

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Snowy Illumination

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snowy-walk-1For days a dismal grey light prevailed as the above-freezing temps slowly melted off Thanksgiving snow. Then this morning we awoke to it: a fresh coat of the white stuff brightening the world. And just in a nick of time for yours truly, sinking into a funk as the days grow shorter and the nights seem to go on forever.

Midday, after doing necessary work and running a few errands, I put on my boots and went for a walk. I kicked up light powder with each step. My dog Matika ran ahead, happy to be out of the house for a change. I slogged down the driveway, along the freshly plowed road, then slipped into the woods.

Snow clung to the branches. Snow kept falling. Snow piled up underfoot, everywhere, but I didn’t mind it. Much better than all that mud brown and sky grey. A winter wonderland? Not how I see the world but, like Matika, I was happy to be out of the house all the same.

Reaching another road, unplowed, I gravitated to the powder to keep from slipping in the packed, icy track of some car that had passed this way. I pulled my hat down around my ears as we turned a corner to face a bitter wind blowing steadily from the west. My eyes teared up. Still better than staying indoors. Plenty of time to thaw out later.

Back into the woods again, closer to home, I suddenly realized how good it felt to be outdoors, moving, and not altogether comfortable.  Hmm…  Explain that to those who have never found the sweetness in a chunk of stale bread, or to those who have never willingly done anything hard.

Note to self: do this more often, only next time head for the hills. Take a real break from the work… or suffer the consequences.

 

 

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Dec 29 2015

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Winter Finally Arrives

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snow barrelsA full-blown winter storm was underway when I got out of bed this morning. Not the kind that makes headlines or excites weather forecasters, but a steady, all-day affair that is blanketing the region with white stuff. If there was any doubt before about what time of year it is, there isn’t now.

I go outside and notice right away that my half-barrels and sap buckets are crowned with snow. I use them to grow herbs during the warm season. In fact, the stubborn remnant of an oregano plant peeks through the cover. I am not fooled by it. I grab my shovel and start to work on the driveway, digging out the cars.

Here in northern New England, the first big dump comes as something of a relief. You know it’s coming – just a matter of when. And you know that it is only the first of many to come, gradually accumulating through the half-hearted thaws until we’re thigh-deep in it. Only then will the great springtime melt begin. But that’s months away. Best not to think about spring.

I heard the other day that Vermont has lost population during the past year. That comes as no surprise to those of us who live here. Good paying jobs are few, living expenses are high, and the winters are hard to get through. As for the latter, it’s best if you have some hobby or craft to keep you busy until April. For some it’s skiing, ice fishing, or snowmobiling. Others, like me, have indoor preoccupations. I get a lot of writing done this time of year.

Still I feel a tinge of dread as I push snow around my driveway for the first time this season. There’s a lot of backbreaking work ahead, not to mention deep cold. And all things green, except conifers, lie dormant beneath the snow.

 

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Dec 15 2014

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Snow-laden Boughs

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snowladentreesA Nor’easter struck New England last week, leaving over a foot of snow here in the Champlain Valley. The rest of Vermont got a whole lot more. For four days I shoveled and roof-raked it – when I wasn’t working, that is. Then yesterday I tramped through nearby fields, finally looking up to see the boughs of trees heavily laden with snow. A winter wonderland to be sure, and well before Christmas. This is the Vermont that skiers and sentimental songsters dream about.

Yeah, I can appreciate it, even though I’m more of a green forest kind of guy. Back in Ohio, where I grew up, my mother reports that the landscape is typically dreary. I remember it well: various shades of brown and endless grey skies. No, I don’t miss that. Though much longer and colder, Vermont winters are more aesthetically pleasing.

This much snow this early in the season is an ominous sign. Climate change has made recent winters rather erratic. A good, old-fashioned Vermont winter with blue skies and plenty of snow would be nice, but fluctuating temperatures could make a sloppy mess of things again. That’s what happened last winter, as well as in years past.

I try not to think about climate change, mostly because there isn’t much that I can do about it. Oh sure, we could in theory shift the global economy away from fossil fuels before things get way out of hand, but how realistic is that?  This morning I read that 196 nations signed an agreement to start setting limits by 2020. Hmm… I can’t help but think that it’s going to be too little too late, especially in countries where folks are just now moving out of abject poverty. Then there are those who still say that climate change is an elaborate hoax. No, it doesn’t do me any good to think about it at all.

And yet the boughs of trees are heavily laden with snow. It is both beautiful yet deeply concerning, especially since the temps are supposed to get well above freezing tomorrow. Did I say beautiful? Yes, let’s focus on that, and let the politicians deal with the rest of it, at least until someone comes up with a viable alternative to what passes for environmental concern in these days. It’s not good to be always focusing on the negative.

 

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Dec 31 2012

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Cutting Tracks in the Snow

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“Let me know when you are ready,” I said to Judy as we lounged in our living room reading the Sunday newspaper online. The wind was howling in the distance. I was hellbent upon going out and cutting fresh tracks in the snow but Judy was balking. So I was surprised when she came down the stairs all dressed to go before I had even moved from my chair.

Our dog Matika didn’t hesitate. She jumped into the car the second I opened the door. She didn’t care that the thermometer registered twenty degrees below freezing. “Let’s go!” her body language said as she flashed a big, canine smile.

An overnight storm had added another four inches to the foot of snow dumped a few days earlier. Conditions haven’t been this good for snowshoeing in nearly two years.

We cut tracks in virgin snow while enjoying the peace and quiet of the wintry woods. Conifers heavily laden with white stuff provided ample cover from the wind. Our morning trek couldn’t have been more delightful. The energy we burned while tamping down the deep powder kept us warm enough.

Matika made us laugh as she romped through the snow. She buried her head in it whenever she caught the scent of some passing creature. Judy and I stopped several times to catch our breath and marvel at the simple beauty of the white world all around us. Even to a lover of green things like myself, nature in winter has its appeal.

By the time we got back to the car, Judy’s toes were half numb, I had rime in my beard, and Matika’s paws had iced up. Still it was fun. Hot chocolate and a warm bath took the chill away. And we thoroughly enjoyed being indoors for the rest of the day.

 

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Mar 09 2011

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Trout Dreams

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A big winter storm struck northern Vermont two days ago, dumping two feet of snow.  That’s the third largest dump on record for these parts, making this the third snowiest winter.  Or something like that.  I spent the better part of yesterday shoveling and roof raking, and that was after the plow guy had cleared my driveway twice.  Yeah, a lot of white stuff.

Right now it’s sunny outside, about twelve hours before the next storm strikes.  I should grab my snowshoes and take advantage of this break in the weather.  But that’s not where my heart lies.  Last night I dreamed of a mountain stream teeming with large, wild trout.  And this morning, well, let’s just say the view out my window doesn’t match the fantasy.

Stepping outdoors for a moment to start up my wife’s car, I hear a cardinal singing loudly from atop a leafless maple.  He’s thinking the same thing I’m thinking.  And the warm morning sun assures us both that spring can’t be that far away.  But all this snow . . . egads!

Judy and I have a late-winter ritual: when the snow is deep outside, we cook and eat the last of the trout that I brought home the previous summer.  Granted, I’m mostly a catch-and-release fisherman these days, but I make sure to bring home a few of them just for this occasion.  We ate the trout a couple weeks ago.  And that’s just about the time I started yearning for the warm season.

This morning I opened the newspaper and learned that the writer/naturalist John Hay just died.  This news sent me to my bookshelves right away.  I cracked open The Immortal Wilderness where I had it bookmarked and reread this:  “Behind the world so recklessly and uncertainly claimed by politics and economics lie the magic and inexorable laws of the wilderness, known to every life.  The flower is wiser than the machine.”  My sentiments exactly.  So now I’m dreaming of wildflowers as well as trout.  Right now I don’t give a damn about the government’s budgetary problems, the health care debacle, or the price of oil.  I just want to see a brook trout and a purple trillium again.

Is this cabin fever talking?  You bet it is.  But there’s no sense stewing in it.  So I’ll strap on my snowshoes and make the best of the situation.  My dog Matika is ready to roll.  Unlike me, she lives in the moment.  She will romp in the snow as if it’s the first powder of the season.  And I will follow, somewhat reluctantly, dreaming of spring.

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Feb 03 2011

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Snow Day

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Over a foot of snow fell on northern Vermont yesterday – the tail end of the big storm that rocked half the country.  I spent a good part of the day shoveling it, and there was still plenty more to tackle this morning.

After three more hours of shoveling, you’d think I’d seen enough snow.  But the sky broke open around midday, temps climbed into the high teens and, well, I had a hankering to go snowshoeing.  So that’s what I did.

Vermonters aren’t easily shaken by the white stuff.  Most of the driveways that I passed on the way to the trailhead had been plowed out, and everyone was pretty much going about their business as usual.  If you can’t handle a little snow, then you shouldn’t live in Vermont.  So I’ve learned to adapt.  I take to the woods with my trusty pair of Green Mountain Bear Paws whenever the snow gets knee deep or better.

I started out on a well-groomed snowmobile trail so I really didn’t need the snowshoes at first.  But half a mile into the walk, I got a powerful urge to cut fresh tracks across the pristine snow.  Every snowshoeing fool knows that urge well.  I stepped off trail and felt the difference immediately.  My heart was pounding hard five minutes into it.  My dog Matika was delighted by the detour. She leapt through the powder, leaving chest-deep holes in her wake.

Eventually we stumbled upon a fresh deer trail and the going was a little easier.  Until we veered away from it.  When the deer trail headed for a marsh, we opted for higher ground.  We followed a small ridge taking us back the way we came.  And forty minutes after leaving the snowmobile trail, we tagged it again.  A short but sweet excursion.  Just enough clear my head.

Back home now, the sun is setting in a cloudless sky.  Wow.   I haven’t done a damned thing all day – nothing that qualifies as productive work, that is.  But snow days are like that.  When a big dump comes, you can either complain about it or embrace it.  Today I chose the latter and thoroughly enjoyed the diversion.  What the heck, I’ll get back to work tomorrow.

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Jan 07 2011

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Deep In It

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My dog Matika was restless so we had to do something.  Okay, maybe I was a little restless, too, having stayed indoors doing literary work for a week or more.  At any rate, we headed for Aldis Hill the other day despite the weather.

I had hoped for a daylong excursion in the mountains but a morning snow shower nixed that.  The prospect of a forty-minute, white-knuckle drive each way along greasy roads did not appeal to me.  Better to stay close to home and leave the bigger outing for a sunny day.  So I headed for the hill.

We hiked up Aldis Hill as a light snow shower tapered off to the occasional flurry.  Almost immediately I regretted not having a pair of Yaktrax with me –  a simple device that slips over each boot, providing traction on icy surfaces.  A couple inches of fresh snow concealed the hazardous conditions underfoot.  Last weekend’s melt-off had turned the hill into a great mound of ice.  Oh well.

Matika didn’t care.  She ran through the woods all smiles, as sure-footed as a mountain goat.  I hobbled along, paying more attention to where I stepped than to the surrounding snow-covered woods.  Near the top of the hill, I stopped long enough to enjoy the view eastward towards French Hill.  And that’s when it struck with full force:  deep in it now.  Deep into winter and there’s nothing to do now but endure.  A fortnight past the Solstice, the days are getting longer, yes, but it’ll be another month before that’s noticeable.  Until then it’s the deep freeze with long dark evenings, a lot of shoveling, and difficult driving.

Descending the hill was even more treacherous than ascending it.  I caught myself wishing for a lot more snow so that I could break out my snowshoes.  That’s how woods walkers like me embrace winter.  Those whose moods run closer to the surface glide down slopes on skis, but some of us would rather slog along, sinking half a foot into the white stuff with each step.    What the hell, if it’s going to be winter we might as well be waist-deep in it.

Matika doesn’t care.  Winter, spring, summer or fall, it’s all good to her.  Dogs are even better than children at being in the moment.  But I am more than half a century old, think too much, and am always looking ahead.  So I dream of warmer, sunnier days even as the cool, fresh air fills my lungs.

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Dec 23 2010

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Snowy Woods

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A week ago I went for a walk in the woods a few hours after a winter storm had ended.  About four inches of the white stuff had fallen and some of it was still clinging to the trees.  A bright sun blazed through a mostly blue sky at midday.  I trudged along, kicking up snow with each step as my dog Matika leaped joyously through the virgin powder.  All the while the wild shouted a deafening silence.

A barred owl swept through the woods, hooting once it had landed somewhere out of sight.  Then a crow.  Then a chickadee.  Otherwise Matika and I had the woods all to ourselves.  She fell upon a set of squirrel tracks, but the squirrel was long gone.  I brushed the snow off a downed tree then sat down for a while to groove on my surroundings.  With not a wisp of wind blowing, the woods remained absolutely still.

As anyone who has read my blogs knows, I am not a big fan of winter.  But this was one of those outings that gave some credence to the myth perpetuated by ski resort marketing departments and 20th Century poets like Robert Frost.  You know what I’m talking about: a winter wonderland and all that.  Well, on rare occasion New England actually lives up to the advertisement, and even a summer-loving guy like me can’t help but enjoy the dazzling beauty of a brown and white landscape on a sunny day.  In the icy, gray hills of central Ohio where I grew up, there was no such thing.

Since then, another winter storm has come and gone dropping even more snow.  Today I spent a good deal of time shoveling it.  Tomorrow probably I’ll do the same, after a big sheet of it avalanches off my roof.  I could complain about my aching back, etc. but I think I’ll give it a rest.  Instead I’ll stand in my driveway after dusk, admiring the way that freshly fallen snow brightens the landscape even in darkness, and count being a Vermonter among my blessings.  In this part of the world, I don’t have to dream of a white Christmas.  It’s practically guaranteed.

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Dec 09 2010

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Winter Arrives

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It happened while I was busy getting ready for the holidays and my wife’s upcoming birthday.  Winter arrived, just like that.  The inch or two of snow that the weather forecasters promised us turned into a foot, and I spent the better part of a day shoveling it.  Then temps suddenly dropped into the teens.  Oh sure, the Winter Solstice is still two weeks away, but there is no doubt here in the North Country that winter has already arrived.

While tossing a ball for my dog at dusk, I noticed the brown remnants of my flower garden sticking up through the snow.  I usually cut them back before the snow flies.  How did that simple task escape me this year?  Like I said, I’ve been busy lately.  Very busy.  It’s becoming a bad habit, actually.  I cram too much into any given day.  I try too hard to make each day count, and they fly by all the same.

I like the way the flower remnants look against the snow, especially as the last light fades.  I don’t particularly like the way the frigid air stings my face, but I know I’ll get used to it.  I put on my thermals today.  It seems a little premature for thermals, but it is that time of year.

The UPS guy just dropped off a proof copy of a book for me to review.  That’s one more thing demanding my attention – one of a half dozen literary projects that I currently have in the works.  Like I said, I’ve been very busy lately.  Maybe too busy.  When is there time to stop and smell the roses?  Right now, only the dried stems of roses protrude above the snow.

My dog lives in the moment.  She plows through the snow, chasing the ball as if it’s the only thing that matters.  While tossing the ball for her, I catch myself thinking about what I’ve accomplished today and making plans for tomorrow.  I’m too busy to lose myself in the moment as she does.  And to be perfectly honest, I barely notice the cold north wind blowing my way.

Winter arrives and I turn inward in more ways than one.  Winters are long here in the North Country, so it’s easy to get lots of indoor projects done.  Yet times like these, when I’m outside and looking around, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to appreciate nature in winter the way I do during the warm season.  Probably not, but I’d sure would like to try someday.

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Dec 02 2010

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Chasing the Light

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Sunlight breaks through the leafless trees at midday – a welcome sight for light-hungry eyes after so many gray days.  Now there’s nothing but blue sky overhead.  I amble along the well-groomed trail, not wandering far away from it, respecting the No Trespassing signs posted on both sides.  Yet my eyes steal southward all the same, chasing the light.  It’s a precious commodity this time of year, when the sun rises so reluctantly and sets all too soon.

A storm front passed through the region a few days ago, leaving a dusting of snow on the ground.  Usually the first snowfall melts off right away, but this one is lingering as if to remind folks that it’s December.  Those of us sensitive to light need no such reminder.

Air temperatures fluctuate, thus determining what kind of precipitation falls, but daylight remains ever faithful to the calendar.  Its slow, steady march through the seasons is deeply comforting in a world as tumultuous and unpredictable as ours.  All the same, the next few weeks of diminishing days are hard on those of us who thrive on light.  We won’t rest easy until we’re on the other side of the Winter Solstice.

I’ve often wondered if I would be so drawn to the Great Outdoors if I didn’t need the light so much.  In summertime I revel in it.  In the winter, the shortness of the day forces me outside.  People tell me that there are vampires among us who need the darkness as much as I need the light, but I find that hard to believe.  Daylight, direct or indirect, is essential to all living things.  Who can go long without it?

Here in the North Country, there are those who string up artificial lights in order to keep the darkness at bay.  Others drag bits of greenery into their houses to remind themselves that the growing season will return.  Still others try to ignore nature’s signals, keeping themselves busy with indoor or outdoor activities, or elaborate holiday preparations.  Every year I find myself resorting to all these strategies.  But that doesn’t change the realities of light – what it does to us over time.  So the best thing we can do is just roll with it, letting nature take its course.  Eventually, the Earth’s axis will tilt as far away from the Sun as it can, then change its attitude.  All we have to do is endure.

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