Posts Tagged ‘blizzard’

Am I The Only One Who Loves Winter?

20140205_151342_resized_1

View of the wood shed and generator during a short lull in the storm

(Disclaimer:  Unlike most people, I am not in any way inconvenienced by snow.  I don’t have to worry about a power loss.  I don’t have to commute to work or drive kids in a carpool to school in the snow or ice; deal with traffic; idiotic drivers who go too fast or too slow; or be at risk for a driving accident due to inclement weather.  I don’t have a  job outdoors like a utility worker who must risk his or her life during a terrible ice storm in -40F to help restore heat or power; or a logger who must hoist tens of tons of felled trees into a logging truck and then drive the logs on icy, narrow, snow-laden back roads to the mill.  I don’t, thank G-d, have to worry about how I can visit a loved one in the hospital in inclement weather, and I am most assuredly not 9 months pregnant in the middle of the blizzard of the century.)

Our ground-mounted solar panels during the storm.  This is why it's ridiculous to install solar panels on your roof:  Are you really going to wait for the snow and ice to melt after the storm so they can start collecting light?

Our ground-mounted solar panels during the storm, easily cleaned off with a broom after the storm stops. This is why it’s ridiculous to install solar panels on your roof: Are you really going to wait for the snow and ice to melt after the storm so they can start collecting light?  Or even worse, are you going to climb a ladder to reach them all the way up on the roof so you can clean them off?

Yesterday I was grocery shopping in No. Conway NH and I overheard a conversation by some workers taking a break.

“I am ready for summer!” said one.

“I am sooo tired of winter,” the other agreed.

Meanwhile my Zumba teacher said that class is cancelled for next week – she is “going to Florida for a break from winter.”

(I could not get over the fact that they were having this discussion on a brilliantly sunny, clear day witih temps in the mid-20s, when visibility from Mt. Washington was 100 miles and it was gorgeous everywhere you looked!  Besides… would they be truly be happier in Spring, aka Mud Season and Blackfly Season?)

It might be wishful thinking, but all the stores in town have started putting out their Spring merchandise, and winter garments are on clearance.  This, despite the fact that realistically we have another one to two months of winter weather ahead of us.  Still, there is something different in the air – – a feeling that winter (despite today’s mammoth snow storm!) is winding down.  Am I nuts?  I miss winter already!  I simply love winter  in Maine.  There are so many wonderful things about it:

  • I love the heat from our wood stove.  It’s a heat that penetrates to your bones, and makes you feel cozy all over.
  • I love the fact the wood we use is from our own land.  We had to clear quite a bit of woods to make way for the driveway and our house.  None of that wood is going to waste!  We also had to clear a large area beneath the house so the solar panels would be unobstructed from the sun.  I have since planted semi-dwarf apple trees in that area so we don’t feel the loss of trees from our woods.  I worked really, really hard over the summer stacking logs in the wood shed.  It’s nice to see all that work being put to good use!
  • I love my MICROspikes, my hiking boots, and my Muck Boots in winter.  They keep my feet warm and dry and allow me to go anywhere outside, even when it’s icy.
  • I love walking outside.  It’s astoundingly beautiful and you rarely see another human being on a trail.  It’s not just black and white – there are thousands of shades of grey in between. With the absence of foliage the views are even more expansive.  And it’s so good to keep moving in cold weather!  You just feel wonderful, and your cheeks get an apple red color that make them positively pinch-able!  When I go for walks in winter, I feel like I’m glowing from both inside and outside.
  • I love the quiet.  Everything is muffled in the snow, the world is at rest, yet when there is sound, it is heightened and your senses feel sharpened.
  • I love the secret world of animals, revealed.  Evidence of life is everywhere in the tracks in the snow.  Raccoons, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes, mice, skunks, deer – – it’s amazing to know what traverses our property when we’re not looking, and this is something we may otherwise miss any other time of year.
  • I love shoveling snow.  Yes, I know, people die of heart attacks from shoveling snow all the time.  But ever since we bought our snow pusher, it’s not a chore; it’s a joyous exercise in efficiency and fun.
  • I love the exuberance.  Even though I don’t go snowmobiling, I love watching snowmobilers having their fun.  I love watching kids building snow forts.  I love watching ice fisherman drive with their pickup trucks right onto a frozen lake and settle in to their ice shacks.
  • I love the clothes.  Down vests, down jackets, Peruvian wool hats, leggings, fleece – – they’re all incredibly cozy and comfortable.  If you know how to dress for the weather, you simply Will. Not. Be. Cold.  Even outside in -5F.  Really!!!
  • I love the food.  Freshly made thick soup on a cold day — what could be more divine?
  • I love bird-watching in winter.  Is there anything funnier than a blue jay that looks like he’s wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler suit, all puffed up to protect himself from the cold?  Our bird feeder attracts nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, woodpeckers and turkeys, plus squirrels and chipmunks and the occasional annoying raccoon.  We don’t keep a bird feeder out any other time of year except winter, due to marauding bears.
  • I love not being afraid of winter, and feeling prepared to take on challenges.  We have a well-insulated house with a good heat source; we have plenty of food and emergency supplies stocked and rotated for freshness; our AWD cars are always filled with gas and we have studded snow tires. We have backup power for our solar system and a backup to our backup (generator).  Our propane tank is filled before winter starts. Our cellphones are kept charged.  We have a huge library.  My husband is a licensed ham radio operator.  Even in an emergency,  if we couldn’t get out, we are good for several weeks by ourselves.
  • I love the sunny days.  Winter in Maine has a surprising number of sunny days.  It would be unusual to go for more than 3 or 4 days without clear, brilliant blue skies.  And when it’s sunny it feels much warmer than the actual temperature thanks to the rays reflecting on the snow.  I have been outside on a windless day for a sun bath in my shirtsleeves in 20F and I was not cold.
  • I love passive solar in winter.  When it’s sunny on a winter day, our south- and west-facing windows heat up the house so well that I don’t even need to use our wood stove to keep the indoor temperature at 65F.  Yesterday our porch, which has acrylic panels instead of screens in winter, heated up to 80F just from the sun, when it was 30F outside.
  • I love the sight and sound of snow and ice crashing off the roof.  It’s very dramatic, thrilling, and scary.
  • I love the fact that one is never too old to make a snow angel!
The birdfeeder

The birdfeeder

Advertisements

Nemo

Due to complications from my recent surgery, we were unable to return to Maine according to our preferred schedule.  Unfortunately this meant that we missed Nemo entirely.  I say “unfortunately” because we love snow and extreme winter weather, especially when experienced from inside our woodstove-heated house that has plenty of stored food and emergency supplies, along with 2 different backup systems if there is a power failure:  indeed, we are snug as bugs in the rug, despite windchill temperatures of -30F.

And when the storm finally clears, there is nothing more magnificent that first few hours post-blizzard than a deep blue, crystal clear sky; the brisk frigid air that is tempered by the sun’s reflection on the powdery white, gleaming expanse;  the branches heavy with clumpy snow; the intermittent chaos of sliding and pounding snow falling off the roof at any given moment; the fun of trudging and exploring on snowshoes or cross-country skis; my dog jumping and diving and burying himself in the drifts with utter exuberance; the clean whitewash of terrain as far as the eye can see; and especially, the still quiet that is so profound that it makes your ears burn and your soul leap.

Our friend Peter was kind enough to send us a photo from Old Orchard Beach, where a tiny pocket of Jewry maintains its presence along the Atlantic shore.  Oh, how I wish I could have seen it!

Where sand, snow and surf meet, post-Nemo:  Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Where sand, snow and surf meet, post-Nemo: Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Girl Scout Wannabe

My husband was supposed to return tonight, but that’s out of the question now.  We’re being socked with a heavy snowstorm.  It’s simply not safe to travel the 3 hours from the Manchester NH airport to our house in Maine (even if his flight is not canceled, which it probably will be).  Assuming the roads will be passable, it would in any case take much longer than the three hours’ travel time due to the necessity of driving extra slowly and cautiously.

It started snowing at 9 a.m. and isn’t supposed to stop until 5 a.m. tomorrow morning.  Right now the snow is coming down at a rate of 1″ per hour, and it’s supposed to get especially heavy this afternoon.

It’s just me and my dog, in my house in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, in a blizzard.

Last night, in preparation for the storm,  I drove 30 miles to the nearest market.  It was cold as heck outside (-8 F) but it was clear and the roads were dry, so I figured it was now or never.  As I passed Shawnee Peak, I couldn’t believe the amount of people night-skiing under the lights.  More than thirty years ago I skied in Colorado in +7 degree weather, and I still remember how cold that felt!  That was 15 degrees warmer than last night.  Mainers are certainly hardy souls!

The moon shone so brightly, I wouldn’t have needed headlights.

I also stopped to fill up the car with gas.  In such cold weather, it would have been an impossible task without gloves to grip the frozen metal nozzle – I had one of those annoying broken ones that wouldn’t lock into place and you had to keep it pressed down in order to fill up the car.  Ditto for grasping the steel shopping carts at the market – they were all parked outside.

As soon as I got back home I put away my mittens, and put on suede and shearling work gloves.  I went out to the shed and brought in several armloads of wood – about 6 trips’ worth that weighed a few hundred pounds.  Now even if it snows for 2 days, I can avoid going outside to refuel.

This morning, just as the snow began, I drove to the post office to pick up the mail.  I’m glad I didn’t tarry, since shortly after I got back home the snow started falling in earnest, and the roads are now dangerous.

I’m not scared to be up here alone (okay, I have my limits – I won’t be watching the movie “Deliverance” anytime soon).  The key seems to be advance preparation, enjoying simple pursuits such as reading, and a sense of adventure.  But it is a little extreme, I must admit; there is certainly more to this story.  I mean, normal people my age, especially most Orthodox Jewish women, just don’t do crazy stuff like this.  (And few have husbands who are so tolerant.)

I admit it, a certain part of me wants to “prove” my independence (to myself, not others) on a grand and heroic scale.  Which is ridiculous, because in general  I am an independent person  and manage just fine on a typical day, thank you.  I think this need of mine is a knee-jerk reaction to the fallout from taking care of our elderly parents for the few years before they passed away.  Is there anything more traumatic, terrifying, and demeaning than losing one’s independence, and being dependent on others for one’s most basic needs?  Is there anything sadder than to see one’s parent, someone who throughout one’s childhood was one’s rock and personification of strength and power,  so diminished?  Being surrounded by frailty only heightened my awareness of how tenuous life is, and how speedily time is marching on.  I have an exaggerated need to live independently because I am on a race against time, and the inevitability of dependence and loss of personal freedoms.  I’m pushing myself to new limits, trying and experiencing new things, no matter how out of character it might seem.  Spiritually speaking, it’s a ridiculous attempt.  Because who are we without HaShem? While we might have a psychological need to feel we have control over our own lives, who are we kidding?  The minute we forget Who is really in control is the moment that He will remind us, and it isn’t always a pretty picture.  It’s a conundrum, filled with not just a little ego:  I want to live life at its fullest on my own terms in a way that HaShem will allow . . . before I’m robbed of that choice.

The snow continues to fall . . .

Food?   . . . Check!

Fuel?  . . . Check!

Shelter?   . . . Check!

Emergency supplies?  . . . Check!

Margarita mix and tequila?  . . . Check!