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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Storm Forecasts and Storm Realities

Where is the driveway???
A forecast is one thing: “A winter storm may....” “Accumulation could be up to....” Possible blowing and drifting....” Sometimes predictions are fulfilled, and other times not much happens, after all. Then there are the times that quite a lot happens, such as it did last March. And so we prepare. We fill water containers and check the level on the propane tank. Make sure we have food in the house. Arm ourselves with reading material. Check supply of candles and lamp oil. Matches? Check!

Is there a world out there?
Two nights ago the temperature dropped and the wind rose. By morning the scene was wild. We had a wild ride to Northport and back with groceries and mail. -- No, that sounds all wrong. David drove very attentively and carefully, on the highway and through town. 

Northport on Tuesday morning
Road and driveway, village streets and sidewalks, all had been deep in slush that had now turned to ice. Our pack came home in the early afternoon, seeing no reason to hang around town.

As the afternoon wore on, the wind grew ever wilder. “What do you call this?” I kept asking David, and he’d say, “It’s a blizzard,” but there was another word haunting the edges of my mind. Finally it came to me: tempest! The word is not used as often in English, at least in America, as it is in French (la tempête), but that was the word I wanted. “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!” That’s King Lear, not Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” but we are hardly on a tropical isle, are we?

Sometimes during a blizzard, if the wind blows hard enough, coming in over Lake Michigan and swooping down on our old farmhouse behind the hill, it will drive a little line of snow under the front porch door. That's a strong wind. This storm? We got a new, cold, white area rug on the cement porch floor. Snow did not fall yesterday, gently or otherwise: no, it was driven horizontal by the wind, and that was in milder moments--the rest of the time it was whirling madly in tornado-like snow devils, with snow devils and waving sheets of snow flying from the top of rapidly rising drifts, like blowing sand from the top of desert dunes in a sandstorm or like spindrift from ocean waves. Sarah and I ventured out a couple of times, but she was not at all reluctant to return to the warm house when I’d had enough of wind and snow and given up on trying to capture reality with my camera.

The barn is no shelter from the wind
It was a good day to be indoors, reading Paul Auster’s Winter Journal, along with a novel I’ll tell you about in a few days. It was a good day to have a chicken braising in the pot, to have soup simmering and cookies baking. It was a marvelous opportunity to do a little trimming on Sarah's shaggy coat. We still had power for an after-dinner movie, and at bedtime David and I read to each other, he to me from Bella Tuscany, I to him from Winter Journal.

The wind howled all night and was still cracking its cheeks at dawn. Will it never be out of breath? It will be good to have lots of snow for Saturday's Winter Carnival in Northport--that's at Braman Hill, 11 to 4--but let's hope the wind takes the day off.

Mice, voles, skunks, bunnies--all snuggled down today


dmarks said...

Those last pictures are like "Little House in the Big Woods" or something.

Gerry said...

That final image of the barn captures the way it looked over here, too. "Tempest" is the perfect word. What a couple of days. But the blessed power is on! And we have omelet makings. We are fond of omelets.

I hope you have a nice cozy evening.

P. J. Grath said...

In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, there's a scene in which Laura wakes up in the morning to find snow on her bedspread (or quilt or whatever it is), snow that had sifted through cracks between boards or through the windows. I don't remember exactly.

We were cozy last night and again tonight, although my coconut cookies were a disappointment, and the recipe will have to be adjusted considerably next time around. Herbal tea is good. Hot chocolate is good. Hot buttered toast--. Isn't food wonderful, especially in the winter?

Steve Morse said...

This reminds me of the bedroom my brother and I shared as kids. One of the windows was adjacent to the slanting roof of our attached garage, and in the winter when the wind bore down it caused snow to blow along the rooftop and into the (partially) open window of our bedroom. As a result, by morning it was not unusual for snow to be covering the bedroom floor under the window. I can also remember poking my head out of the covers on those mornings and watching my breath condense in the cold, cold air. My dad had served in France in WWI and equipped my brother and me each with three army blankets, so we had a thick, heavy layer of wool over us to keep us warm. Nonetheless, I got into the habit of sleeping with my entire head, save my mouth and nose, under those covers. That practice continued until I was in college when my roommates, completely amazed, began calling me “the Mole.” Unfortunately, it was a nickname that stuck. In fact, within the past month I received a phone call from one of them in Atlanta who began the conversation with: “Hey, Mole, I hear you’re having some pretty wintry weather up in Michigan these days.”

P. J. Grath said...

Do you like being called Mole, or should I keep calling you Steve? Either way, loved the story and appreciate your sharing it here. My grandfather did not believe in heating upstairs bedrooms, but I can't remember my father telling of snow coming in. My dad grew up in a very solid brick house, quite unlike my mom's high school home (they moved all around before that), with no indoor plumbing and only curtains in the bedroom doorways.

Was your dad really in World War I, or did you mean II? I ask because we are close to the same age, and my father was in World War II.