Saturday, February 20, 2010

Savage Small

"Savage Small" was a game invented by my brother Bob for our little brother Bryce--basically Marco Polo with a blanket instead of a pool. It's much more comical when played with several layers of blankets, but K. thinks this puts the kids at a disadvantage. I say that disadvantage is hilarious.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Growing up in Michigan, I had certain things I liked about each season. Fall was my absolute favorite -- not only were there colors, but the crunch of the leaves underfoot and the crisp, brisk breeze made me feel my most alive. Winter was my second favorite, with snow and holiday festivities. (It probably didn't hurt that MI is on the far, far western edge of the eastern time zone, so sunset is noticeably later even in the dark winter.) At some point in my childhood, my Christmas present was a pair of cross-country skis, and there was one Christmas when my family rented a one-room cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan and spent Christmas by the light of a wood-burning stove and candles. Spring was a wash as far as I was concerned, my main memories being of snowmelt mud and yellow grass that had been covered by snow for so many months that it was leached of all green. Summer was OK, but we didn't have air conditioning or access to a pool and so I was mainly excited for thunderstorms and tornado warnings. I do have some good memories of camping trips, gardening, and swimming in lakes.

It wasn't until S. and I lived in Virginia that I understood why so many people loved spring. I had no idea it could be such a beautiful season -- the snow never stayed long enough to kill the grass, so it came up sparkling green and fresh, and the hill near our student apartment was dotted with little wild violets and butterflies. Plus dogwoods everywhere, the hilly land bursting into full leaf, and a bath of sunshine covering everything. (By comparison Michigan is not known for its sunny skies...)

But it wasn't until here in the Northeast that I first started to dislike winter. Somehow, the length of the seasons is skewed here and winter steals an extra month just from spring. Despite a longer winter, though, there is much less snow than I would expect. I guess our northerliness is countered by the fact that we're near the coast. Last of all, my husband works later now than he ever did earlier in our marriage, so winter is long, dreary, dark, cold, boring and a little lonely.

Enter this this year's snowstorms. Having constant fresh snow on the ground brightens and transforms the landscape so wonderfully. I remember as a child waking up on a winter morning and hearing a certain clear hush in the cold air, whereupon I would rush to the window and discover a fresh blanket of snow outside. It never failed to surprise and delight me. Somehow as an adult, I've had the opposite experience -- weather reports are much more ubiquitous, and more often than not I'm disappointed by a possible snow in the forecast which then doesn't fall. It certainly never takes me by surprise in the morning.

But this year, there have been a number of mornings when we rush to look out the window and gasp in amazement and delight. It has been hard work to shovel it all off of our driveway, but I mainly enjoy the exercise and the excuse to be outside and active. And to top it all off, I've had my husband home from work to enjoy it with me and the kids. I love it. Even as I type, there are more fluffy flakes falling outside my window. I've been surprised that the kids haven't been drawn to play out in it very much, though I suppose it's really too deep for them to enjoy much before getting very cold and wet, especially since we never bought them any snowpants or good boots. (Shame on us.) But I do hope that they end up with some good, snowy winter memories like I did. How can they avoid it after 38+ inches in less than a week? The icicles alone will seriously stick in their minds...

(Just a brief description of the above view -- that green bucket is sitting on the corner of our front stoop, Lucy's preschool grapefruit-birdfeeder is hanging from that low branch in the near background, and right near the tree trunk is a smaller lump of snow that marks our bench, where we like to sit and relax in nicer weather.)

We recently had the kids watch The Dark Crystal for the first time, and we thought our row of snowy leaning cypresses looked like the Skeksis.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowed In, Under and Through

It's a good thing we have three months worth of food storage, because I get all my storm warnings from mid-Atlantic coworkers and never know whether to take them seriously or not. (Given the amount of fretting that accompanies every snowy forecast, you might get the mistaken impression that it does not snow here--multiple times--every single winter.) Anyway, it looks like this time they were right. Earlier in the week, my Saturday plans included a long, exploratory walk in the woods. Saturday morning, about 7am, those plans got thrown out the window:
I heard we got somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 inches, to the great pleasure of my Michigan bride:
One of our neighbors has access to snow plow, and must have plowed our driveway in the middle of the night, because there was only about 15 inches of snow covering the driveway when we went to dig ourselves out. I don't think he even knows our names, and this is the second time this winter he's plowed our driveway.

I remember one particular winter in Utah, the drifts were halfway up the doors and we could hardly get close enough to deliver the newspapers along our route. I also remember waking up to ice storms in Connecticut, with all the tree branches translucent and bent low to the ground. I think storms must find a place in everyone's memory--the astonishment at how quickly the world can change around us.
In spite of all that, the big drifts are already sagging in the sun. My forecast: two weeks of wet socks.