7:15 am and I think I hear howling.
I wasn’t going to complain. I really wasn’t. Another 5 inches overnight. NBD. Brush, shovel, scrape-repeat. It’s what you do this winter.
But this morning, the truck’s tires are frozen-literally frozen to the driveway. What new devilry is this? How does this even happen?
I mince back to the house to look for kitty litter-you know, for traction. We all mince here because, as everyone in this region knows, unless you’re being chased by tundra wolves, it is against the law in the Commonwealth to run in the outdoors during the month of February. You are only allowed dedicated and little mincing steps. Shuffles are also acceptable. I mouth Bruno Mars lyrics as I mince over crusty snow and ice back to my house-
This hit-that ice cold Michelle Pfeiffer that white gold…
The handle on my screen door, finicky on even the best of June days, plays its part in this little drama and refuses to turn even though it had only mere seconds ago. Somehow, my cursing actually works this time–God I love science! And with a little effort I am able to briefly wrest the door handle from winter’s grip without breaking it. Let that be a lesson to you, kids walking to the bus stop–swearing is good!
Inside there is, predictably, no virgin litter to be found. But hey, like the Viagra commercial, I’ve reached the age where giving up isn’t who I am. The clock ticking, and February being a short month anyway, I make a bold and powerful executive decision to draw litter from our cat’s (her name is Cat) own gently used box. I scoop out the less-traveled regions with empty yogurt and putty containers. Cat looks on, concerned, as if to say, Human- are you sure that is going to be enough for you?
No time to explain. Go play with catnip.
Back outside at the “go” wheel of my truck, it feels as though the temperature has climbed a little, above 0 degrees anyway (that’s minus 228 Celsius, for you metric types). I sprinkle the precious contents of Cat’s box around the tire. This is repeated 3 more times until I’m certain all of the wheels will get traction.
You know when you drive a stick and you’re wearing your big-ass winter boots and between those and the slippery melting ice on the clutch pedal it’s almost as if you have forgotten how to drive? I only stalled it a couple of times. Then I notice Donna, our elderly but very independent neighbor across the street, waiting patiently for me to pull out. Her driveway is clear down to the asphalt. It’s spotless, really. It always is. If you type in her address on Google Earth, hers is the beautiful oasis of black rectangle in an otherwise white wasteland. I have witnessed her shoveling during the very teeth of a howling nor’easter, while I am inside curled up fetally. Driveway care is one of Donna’s passions.
On the few occasions in the past when I have begun to shovel her out, she inevitably waves me off saying, I’ve got this, Rick, but thanks anyway. We both know that her driveway clearing would kick my ass.
As she waits in her Buick, I waive her on, motioning towards my house as if I’ve forgotten something back inside. Like more cat shit, I’m thinking. I glance back at Donna as I stand before my again-frozen screen door and watch as her own benevolent driveway tenderly guides her out onto the road and into great wide open. Say a prayer for me at St. Bonnies, my capable neighbor.
Church…Lent…ASHES! That’s the ticket. Nice organic free-range ashes from the wood stove. That will surely free the wheels. I’ve reached the age where giving up is mostly not an option…
We’ve made a lot of ashes this winter, from all the scrapwood I finally got around to burning. Long ago, before THE TIME OF THE SNOW, there was opportunity to cut and split firewood on bare ground! One such scrap is pictured below: These are ye olde stockes from Plimoth Plantation. For years they sat at the crossroads of that re-created living historie colonie from ye tyme of ye pilgrims, right in front of ye Governor’s house, a stern reminder to all who would transgress ye civil authority. Since their retirement, the stocks have been a garden ornament at my place, more a refuge for clematis than a punishment for oath-swearers. But as all worldly things are want to do, the oak posts began to decay. This seemed as good a year as any to finally free myself from its bondage and convert ye New England stocks into British Thermal Units-
Back out in the tundra, I happily sprinkle ashes around all 4 tires, and much of the driveway to boot. I probably should have stopped the first time I heard something clink on the ice. But I didn’t.
Nails. Wood screws. And some random pieces of what appeared to be 19th-century hardware begin to reveal themselves when the ash dust has settled. Is that a Roman coin? They are all of them sprinkled around my tires now. They are all of them sprinkled up and down the driveway, because the only thing more fun than a frozen tire is a frozen flat tire.
It’s 8:05. Donna’s dipping her fingers in holy water by now and I’m using mine to sort through kitty litter and impure ashes to pick out nails and screws. Ash Wednesday why must you mock me? Still, I refuse to be bound to your antiquated concept of on-time.
Oh look, bonus GRK fastening units in the mix!
Once the hardware was reclaimed, the truck found its footing and I lurched forward a few feet into the road. I would have continued directly to the job site but I needed to yield to the herd of musk-oxen migrating further south. Good day to you.
Plow-glaciers: Is that a thing? Because it should be. Living on a dead-end road has it perks–street hockey, pissing with reckless abandon in the woods, etc. But all of the precipitation which has fallen on lovely route 3-A–from Neponset to Manomet–is now sitting at the end of my road, partially blocking my driveway ni skating rink. Have you ever shoveled plow-glaciers?
Even our dog Bogey, who usually loves and frolics in the snow, pauses at the door lately. He looks at me–looks outside–and looks back up at me–WTF, man?
Think of it this way: 100 inches of snow (our running total this winter) is like a dozen under-inflated footballs placed one on top of the other; it’s 14.28 Dunkin’s large coffee cups stacked top to bottom; it’s about 133 seed catalogs full of heirloom tomatoes and sexy lettuces laid flat one on top of the other.
So it’s not all snotty beards and white death.
Look what a friend did with all of his snow:
And miscreants can carve a phallus into the snows of Cole’s Hill, under the very nose of Mr. Bradford and his puritanical aspect-
Two words: Snow Beard.
Sometimes the weather and circumstances lead to things which ya just don’t see everyday:
And some things that just maybe you shouldn’t have seen-
My brother-in-law plays hard on the snowy slopes of Colorado:
The other day while clearing snow, we saw two hawks getting their 50 Shades on at the very top of a power pole-
And today a fox light-footed it through a hollow near the mill-
Other reasons to enjoy this winter:
Cardinals are singing. Their song makes a musical counterpoint to all the skid-steers beeping during snow removal.
You can hone your mogul skills on all the frost heaved roads.
A fun game is to guess how long it will take for that 10 inches of snow to fly off the roof of the car in front of you.
Clearing low-pitched roofs has become a cottage industry and puts food on the table for many.
Relive your childhood by using plastic Nissen Bread bags for boot liners!
After coffee break, dudes can practice cursive on the snow banks!
Late February teases us–the rake of light, the birdsong, and pitchers and catchers playing somewhere far away on real grass-
-it’s all so damned close…
-we mince and plod on, freeing stuck cars, moving piles of snow, and going about our work.
I wasn’t gonna be one of those people who rant about snow piles and meteorologists. There are exceptional people who embrace this weather. I can suck it up and keep it to myself. But who am I kidding–I’m just as fed up as most of the rest of us.
I’ve reached the age where giving up is a just a frozen door handle away…
I hit my personal winter breaking point today–around 8:20 am.
Soon we won’t have to mince anymore if we don’t want to. We will cast off our stocks and our bread bags and we will run willy-nilly through open fields and gentle breezes…
I’d write more but I need to shovel again.
And there’s the smallest hint of ice in Donna’s driveway.
Here are some other things for you to consider and act upon while shedding your bread bags:
Have you seen the latest workshop offerings from Plymouth CRAFT?
An amazing variety of workshops await you at the tip of your index finger. Some of this region’s most talented and nice people are teaching their skills to folks just like you. You can be an absolute beginner-all ranges of skill and interest are welcome. Carve wooden spoons with Peter Follansbee. Go half-hog with author Paula Marcoux. There is a craft brewing workshop and Ukrainian Egg decorating, just in time for Easter. Want to learn to knit? Plymouth CRAFT has you covered.
And blacksmith Mark Atchison will lead a day-long workshop on the fundamentals of blacksmithing. Here’s a link to Mark’s process of researching and re-creating an historic axe: http://plymouthcraft.org/?p=1645
Plymouth CRAFT has quietly begun to do some really special things. Spots are going fast though. Get in on it!
RIP Dr. Karin Goldstein-scholar, mentor, and great human.