Monday, December 6, 2010

The First Snow Fall!

Those of you who know me well know also how much I HATE winter.  Growing up in New Jersey I can count on one hand how many times I went sledding as a child.  I lived there close to 40 years and hated each and every winter: the snow, the slush, the dirty slush, the wet slush.  Not to mention the freezing rain day after day throughout February.  I remember as though it were yesterday fighting to open the storm door to get out of the house to go to work.  It’s not easy opening a storm door from inside when the outside part has frozen.  Once opened, I would carefully pick my way out to the street over treacherous ice, though the eternally falling freezing rain to my car, chip open the frozen handle on the car door so I could spend the next hour driving 20 miles to work through frozen streets and sliding cars, only to do the same thing 8 hours later to get home, where once again I had to chip away the ice from the storm door now to be able to get into the house.  But of course you’re not in the house for long; there’s ice to chip off the sidewalk so that no one falls and breaks their neck, like me!  Yeah, those were the days.  That’s what I think of when I think of winter.  That’s why 20 years ago I packed up my stuff into a Penske truck, hitched my car behind me, left my snow shovel on the front porch and headed down south.
So you might find it odd that last Saturday I sat in my upstairs office overlooking the beautiful swirling flakes of snow as they drifted silently past my window to the ground below.  I watched intently as they danced and floated past me down from the burdened clouds above, steel gray and solid, relieving them of their soft, gentle cargo.  I was moved to write a blog.  I waxed on poetically about their uniqueness, their ability to soften everything into silence and glistening beauty, the calmness they instilled in one as they drifted past in dreamy, endless succession. I shared the mirth of watching children outside catching snowflakes on their tongues just as kids have done for thousands of years before us and will probably continue to do for thousands of years into the future.  I shared the wonder of snow in the South that, if it does what it’s supposed to, falls upon trees and grass and bushes, while leaving roads and sidewalks clear (remember that snow shovel I left in New Jersey?  Well I haven’t owned another in the past 20 years.) I wrote of the wonderful first snowfall I shared with my daughter when she was about 15 months old, bundling her up to take her out walking in the silent darkness to greet the snowflakes as they fell upon our cheeks.  I wrote of the poem that my father always quoted in my youth as we peered at the snow piling up outside our windows:
THE SNOW had begun in the gloaming,
  And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
  With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock

  Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
  Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

Pretty, huh?  Well, don't get too excited.  Like all reality, the truth is that that poem was about the death of a child.  No wonder my dad only quoted the first two verses.  It was years later that I read the rest of it.  But whenever the first snowfall comes, I still look out my window and hear his words and I simply indulge myself in the mesmerizing, glistening white miracle taking place right before my eyes. 

So, yes, I wrote of all those things in long poetic prose, so moved was I by the tranquil scene outside my window.  And then I promptly erased it all accidentally when I was doing a spell check and vowed never again to write a blog that wasn’t first created in Word.  That should have been my first warning.
Passionate writing like that only comes on with great inspiration and cannot be duplicated on demand.  So I shut down the computer and went on to other things. 
The next day was Sunday.  I left the house around noon to go to my mom’s and visit my old congregation 30 miles away.  It was an awesome day, set off by one of those rare deep blue, cloudless skies, the like of which are seldom seen in North Carolina where humidity generally fills the atmosphere, robbing us of such clear blue beauty.  Carolina Blue is not just a team color; it’s the color most often seen above us most of the year.  I threw a mohair wrap, more an item of adornment than warmth, in the back seat of the car and drove away.  At 3:30 it was still a beautiful day with a crispness in the air that still did not require me to use that wrap, as I pranced around sans stockings and with a thin mock turtleneck knit top and skirt, enjoying the beauty around me.  By the time the meeting ended, reality had crept in.  It was about 23 degrees when I left the hall to go out the car, with a howling wind that tried to carry me away (and with my weight, that’s not an easy prospect!)
I froze half to death getting in and out of the car to go back to my mom’s house, eat at a friend’s house and finally return home.  I awoke this morning to the same temperature that enveloped us last night. 
Six miles is not very far to drive to work, but it seems like an eternity as you wait for the heater to warm up.  Yes, it’s a short trip, but do you know how many lights there are to make it a long, cold journey into Winston?  No, no, don’t talk to me about pre-heating the car before I get in it.  That would mean going out into the cold three times!  Once to start up the car, then go back to the house, then back to the car.  I can’t handle that.  It’s like some sort of masochistic torture.
The cold was everywhere today: inside, outside, in me!  Every time someone entered the building that was the topic of conversation.  We had a lunch provided by drug reps today, but it meant walking 30 yards to the doctor’s office to fetch it and 30 yards back!  “No thanks,” I snorted, happy I’d had enough forethought for once to bring some lunch with me, “I’d rather starve than go out in that weather!” And I meant it.  And almost did.  One cup of vegetable soup doesn’t quite fill you up when that’s all you’ve had all day.  But I HATE winter!  And there you have it.  Winter is here.  Perhaps not by the calendar, but it’s definitely here.  My poetic, idealist ponderings of gentle snowflakes have tumbled into grim thoughts of reality:  bitter cold and freezing pipes, dead car batteries and frostbitten appendages. 
“We have a cold front blasting in from Canada,” the weatherman says glibly, smiling at me from the TV screen as he points to U-shaped white lines on his color-coded map. “Looks like chilly weather for the next week,” he grins.  I think of throwing a pillow at him, but it’s covering me up to keep me warm.
So what happened to that wonderment I experienced only two days ago?  Ugly reality! That’s what happened! 
Winter!  I HATE winter!  I hate cold even more than I hate humid, hot, sticky summers.  So remind me again why I moved back here from Washington State?  Oh, yeah, I hate gray skies even more than cold winters and humidity. Wow, I didn’t realize I was such high maintenance.  My only solace is that normally in the South, we only have to put up with nasty weather one week at a time.  Yep, next week is supposed to be in the 50s.  I think I can make it till then.  But just in case, I spent my lunch hour buying fur-lined winter boots.  Hey, I may have left the shovel in NJ, but my little tootsies still get cold!