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Thursday, December 10, 2009

“What’s It Like Here in the Winter?” Part II: Socked In

That’s right—no one will get to Northport today to open Dog Ears Books. (Can’t you just see the weeping crowds on the sidewalk, pulling at their hair and gnashing their teeth in disappointment? In my dreams, the little village would be that hungry for my books!) David and I made it to town yesterday, against the odds, but those odds have mounted considerably in the past 24 hours, and the drifts at the top of our driveway are deeper than I can trudge through on foot.

I did make it partway up before deeming discretion the better part of valor and turning back, but getting up that hill, this morning, was much more challenging than coming down yesterday afternoon—and getting down through the drifts yesterday wasn’t easy to begin with.

(You cannot see drifts in this image: David was traversing a windswept point when I snapped the picture. After that we were both floundering, and photography was no longer an option.)

How long will our first winter storm of the season last? How long will the wind continue to blow? As these questions come to my mind, I picture the wind personified as the stereotypical old man with long, white beard, puffed cheeks and rounded mouth issuing fierce clouds of frigid breath. There’s a hurricane song with the refrain, “It ain’t the wind/It’s the rain.” When it comes to winter storms and plowing, I can tell you, it ain’t the snow, it’s the wind. Most definitely.

We are lucky so far in not having lost electric power. If it does go out, we’ll be ready to deal with the situation, but not having to is much pleasanter. My #1 power priority is the electric pump that delivers water from our well. (One of my dreams is a working hand pump like the one the old well had!) Alternative means of heating and lighting and cooking don’t bother me a lot; there is even a retrograde pleasure (do not read that as a contradiction) in reverting to kerosene lamps and such. Not having running water, on the other hand, is more suited to life in a tent, preferably in a warm season or warm climate, than life in a house. But as I say, so far our luck is holding out.

Besides the drifts being deeper this morning, today’s temperature is much lower, too, so the wind penetrates and bites. Sarah is eager and excited to go outdoors with me and run around, but she’s also ready to make a beeline back for the house, feet and muzzle caked with clumps of snow, when I’ve had enough.

‘Tis the season to indulge in cream in one’s coffee and steaming bowls of hot cooked (not microwaved, not instant!) cereal. (Eating instant cereal is like eating a bowl of sugar. All the work of digesting has already been done, and you’re doing your body more harm than good. End of brief lecture.) ‘Tis the season to sit still and write long letters by hand, letters to be put in envelopes and taken to the post office (eventually) with stamps affixed. Real letters, I’m talking about. I wrote two last night and like to hope someone, somewhere, was writing one to me (P.O. Box 272, Northport, MI 49670, if the spirit moves you).

Given the nature of this blog and my personal lifelong habits (a few of which I have revealed in the past two years), not forgetting my second nature as a bookseller—that is to say, altogether, my love of the printed word—I probably don’t need to point out that this season and weather are ideally suited, in my life, to reading books. Our Ulysses study group has only three chapters left to discuss, and I am almost through the first of those last three, as of nine o’clock this morning.
Preparatory to anything else Mr. Bloom brushed off the greater bulk of the shavings and handed Stephen the hat and ashplant and bucked him up generally in orthodox Samaritan fashion, which he very badly needed.

With no cabs in sight, they make their way (I imagine drunken Stephen stumbling along, Bloom perhaps steering him by the elbow) to a cabman’s shelter, that Irish institution of Victorian days (Edward now on the throne: king, not queen any longer) providing not only a roof and walls but also nonalcoholic beverages and light solid refreshment. Stephen can barely look at the bun Bloom urges him to eat, though he, Stephen, has not eaten since the day before yesterday (this being after midnight). A sailor spins tales. Bloom, as always, thinks more than he speaks, his speculative mind ranging far and wide. In a picture provided by our discussion leader, Fearless Big Steve, the typical cabman’s shelter looks to be about the size of a trolley car. I wonder how warm it is. –Ah, but this is June in Ireland, not December in Michigan, I remind myself.

The best way to get through winter storms is to be prepared (I was going to say “ahead of time,” but what other time can one prepare?) and then relax and enjoy them. Many years ago when my son had chickenpox and had to stay home from school, my strategy for the siege was to heap unaccustomed luxuries upon him—all the 7-Up he wanted to drink (ordinarily we did not have soft drinks in the house), mountains of library books (instead of the usual three at a time), and loaves and loaves of cinnamon bread from our neighborhood bakery to toast and butter for treats. Was there anything else? I’ve forgotten. But our life was simple back then, and he appreciated my offerings for what they were: festive departures from our ordinary life. “Because you only get to have chickenpox once,” I told him, “and you have to make the most of it!” He did. We did. It may have been my Finest Hour as a mother. You do all kinds of things for your kids that you hope they will remember, but you have no control over how their memories are formed or what goes into them. Chickenpox, my son does remember, and just the way I hoped he would.

When my sisters and I were growing up, our family lived across the road from a cornfield (soybeans in alternate years), halfway up a hill, a block and a half from one state highway to the north and two and a half blocks from another to the south. Drivers looking to shave distance between the two highways took the shortcut by our house, so that one of our chief amusements when kept home on snow days was to watch out the window for cars that couldn’t make it up the hill. They would attempt, swerve, slide back down, and often end in the snowbank by the side of the road. A good storm was worth half a dozen stranded vehicles, and that brought the added excitement of tow trucks.

Naturally, with that steep hill we did a lot of sledding, too. Not down the roadway but from one backyard to the next, a series of slopes that would take us, if we got a good, fast start, all the way to the end of the block. When we got too cold, or when it finally got so dark that our parents wanted us inside, there would be hot cocoa and popcorn and card games and Scrabble. And books, of course.

Yes, a snow day is something to relish. As a natural break in routine, it is infinitely to be preferred to migraine!


Deborah said...

Bosco has yet to enjoy the snow but would absolutely have been overjoyed to romp in snow with cousin Sarah. Your wind, I'm sure, is much worse than ours has been here in Springfield IL. I'm glad you continue to have power, good books, movies (esp. for David), and your oven in which to cook treats like apple crisp.

P. J. Grath said...

Bosco would have had a riot here today in the snow with Sarah! I'm getting more like your old Hershey, happy to come back in to the warmth of the house. Time for me to get offline now and mix up some muffins. One other good thing: no evidence of coyotes since the storm began. I'm sure they are staying snug in their dens and not venturing abroad.

Gerry said...

Oh, my, what a wonderful post It is exactly right on all counts.

The snow stopped hours ago over here, but the drifts grow higher and the roads more dangerous as the wind blows, and blows, and . . . If the power holds, denning up indoors is a delight.

During today's walk through the back lane I decided that tomorrow's walk will definitely be on snowshoes. Then some people cross-country skiied past on the road, and I thought perhaps tomorrow's walk would be more of a quick outing to the side yard . . .

Good memories, well told. Thank you, PJ.

dmarks said...

It doesn't look any better down here, only slightly less north than you are.

P. J. Grath said...

This morning I woke in the week dark hours to contemplate Part III and to recall with longing the comforts of being "snowed in" in town--Leland, Traverse City, Kalamazoo. From our Leland house we could walk to the Early Bird for breakfast, to the Merc (grocery store), post office, the bank, even the library. Here we are seven miles from town in either direction, and that's if we could get out to the road first.

P. J. Grath said...

Correction: make that 'wee dark hours.'

Karen said...

limbo, a place where unbaptized babies go after death

limbo, a party dance involving a pole and bodily contortions

do babies limbo in limbo?

limbo, being sick in bed and having dad show up with comic and coloring books; and mom, with heated ginger ale.

P. J. Grath said...

Memory of childhood sickness? Comic books and warm ginger ale sound comforting. And see? You remembered!