22 February 2013

Cottage Capers... or, a post-blizzard update

The capriciousness of New England weather is notorious. In fact, Mark Twain is said to be responsible for the infamous quote: "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a minute." 

Which is why I am genuinely impressed that for the past two weekends, the weather casters have had it exactly right, from the timing of the snowfalls to the amounts.  A remarakble feat for anyone who tries to predict any kind of weather in this part of the world with even a slim sense of accuracy.
When "Nemo" arrived it began with a light snowfall at 7am Friday (as predicted) and didn't depart until four o'clock Saturday afternoon (as predicted). There was a parking ban, a driving ban, nearly 200,000 people were without power, and our area of New England came to a complete halt for nearly four days.  Also as predicted. 

Fearful of losing power, I made a huge vat of Tomato soup as soon as I awoke on Friday, followed by a less practical but equally comforting batch of walnut brownies.  I then spent an hour or so bringing logs and kindling into the house, preparing the grate with paper knots and bracken and then piling enough logs on the hearth and in the back hallway to keep a good fire going in case the worst happened and there was no heat. 
By mid-afternoon Friday, the snowfall had picked up, falling an inch per hour. (As predicted.) By nightfall, the branches of my hemlock were touching earth, crowned with huge globs of wet snow, and my rose arbor was nearly face down on the front walkway. Throwing a long raincoat over my nightdress and donning my wellies I spent three quarters of an hour in face-stinging snow waving the business end of a shovel at the hemlock branches, the cherry tree, and the rose hedge, trying to release them back into their natural shapes before they snapped in two.  Then it was back inside for a ball of jute and kitchen shears so I could haul the rose arbor back on its legs and lash it to the old iron gate near the front flower bed.  By the time I came indoors I must have had at least 10 pounds of sleet inside my clothes.  Very bracing at nine o'clock at night. 

The wind howled throughout the evening but other than a few flickers now and then the cottage never lost power and I fell asleep to the sound of what they'd promised could be one of the top five snow storms we'd ever experienced.
Early Saturday morning the snow continued to fall, with blustering eddies swirling drifts up to four feet high. I tried to venture out the back door to see how the trees had fared but it was sealed shut by nearly two feet of snow and try as I may I could not push it openOpening the front door, I was greeted by a slightly smaller pile of snow as it tumbled onto my slippers. Absolutely everything was blanketed in white. In fact, any evidence of my having been outside the night before, to-ing and fro-ing and trying to save tree branches and arbors, was covered now by at least another foot of snow. 

As the sun moved higher in the sky, more people ventured outdoors, but it wasn't until late morning that the sound of shovels and snowblowers filled the air, in counterpoint with the voices of children pushing their rubber tires and sleds along the road.

I love the silent camaraderie that evolves when you are locked in the same chore with people, aware of one another but not speaking and simply going about your business.  This happens in the summer when I pick berries at a local farm with a friend or family member. Bent at the waist, we concentrate our efforts on the bushes, picking the best fruits and letting them drop into our baskets as our minds wander into what I like to call a "picker's high". Occasionally one of us will look up to see how far down the row the other person is, as bees buzz languidly around our skirts and heads. The same quiet fellowship occurs when neighbors find themselves shovelling their way out of their homes. 

I found my rhythm, shifting direction now and then and taking care not to bury my rose hedge in the heavy wet snow as I did one year.  (It took them nearly the entire summer to bend back to their proper height and I felt a terrible guilt each time I looked at their misshapen branches.) Clearing a small path from the front door to the sidewalk I made my way down the pavement to the neighbor's boundary. Retracing my steps, I made a path from the front of the house around to the side door.  All that remained now was a path down the driveway and out to the street, but this would involve shoveling my way through a pile of snow that reached nearly to my shoulders, left behind by the plows.  Fatigue and hunger drove me inside for a change of clothes and a bowl of soup, but within the hour I was outside again, determined to tackle the mountain of white that remained.  At that moment my neighbor came over and met me halfway with his snowblower, clearing the last of my front walk and pushing his way through the enormous heap the plows had deposited there.  "Shall we drive a golden spike in?" he joked as the pathway opened.

Despite hefty fines for not shovelling, the sheer volume of snow meant that many people were unable to fulfill their civic duty. And so throughout the week I was met by maddening, labyrinthian walkways that ended, like an unkept promise, in 6 foot snowdrifts, forcing me to retrace my steps and exit onto the road. Hazards awaited me there, as well, since the plows had been unable to clear parking lanes, and pedestrians were forced to share the travelling lanes with buses, cars, SUVs and large trucks. It was hair-raising, to say the least.   

 By the end of the week, a few sunny days and a little overnight rain had melted a bit of the snow, making the paths (and their attendant piles) more manageable for those who didn't possess Sherpa DNA.  And then Sunday arrived with another four inches of snow. (As predicted.)  The wind and snow encircled the house, leaving more hazardous walking in its wake. But compared to Nemo, winter storm Pluto's punch was a weak one, merely adding insult to injury in so few days.

And now we await Q, the Bondian titled storm that has wreaked havoc in the Plains states, but may meet its match when it comes up against the coastal waters of New England, which are famous for taking snow and turning it into sleet and freezing rain.

Witches are sometimes called 'casters'.... which makes me believe that weathercasting is less about science and more about spell-binding and wizardry.  How else to explain such colossally misdiagnosed hits, misses, and near misses?  But now that they are two-for-two, it remains to be seen if this third storm will leave us more wet than white. As predicted.

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