Pouring snow earlier this morning.
As I write, the sky is an unbroken gray and snow is falling rather briskly here along the river. Of course, the up-to-the-minute latest forecast from the National Weather Service says we'll have mostly sunny skies all day; the possibility of snow is not mentioned.
Uh-huh. There are times when I think God simply does this to the weather folks to keep them from being too impertinent and forgetting who is really in charge of such matters.
We also had snow a couple of days ago—not that it amounted to all that much. For all its blowing and swirling, in the end, I'd guess my home stretch of riverbank received a bit over an inch. One of those snows which winds up somewhat short of covering the ground in a thick, fluffy, unbroken mantle of white, but is instead thin enough that bits of leaves and sticks show through. Worse are the grass tips. They might not be so visible if I'd given the yard one more mowing last fall instead of succumbing to the distraction of autumn's colorful leaves. Distracted to the point where I allowed certain yard chores to fall by the wayside. Now, those same neglected green tips stick up above the white like quills on a porcupine. Or perhaps tiny emerald Excaliburs, each being raised and held above the snow's surface by the arm of the Lady of the Lake. Either way, they're doing their best to nag at my conscience, stirring guilt by providing one more reminder of myblasé work ethic.
In case you're wondering, we had rain for Christmas. This happens fairly often here in the southwest corner of the state. We sing about a white Christmas, long for a white Christmas, and picture the day against a backdrop of white in our imagination…but reality is apt to arrive rainy, muddy, and in the low-40s˚F, or at least brown and dry and bitterly cold or windy rather than storybook white.
I don't think it has anything to do with global warming, though it may very well reflect a warmer trend of a long-term weather cycle which the region—if not the entire hemisphere—seems to go though every hundred years or so. When I was a kid—up to about about age ten—December hereabouts was a month filled with snow. In fact, you could generally count on some pretty fair snows beginning in November—first flurries, then coverings that lasted a day or two. A white Thanksgiving was nothing unusual.
December continued the trend—more morning flurries and light, blowing snows; snows which might measure a half-inch or six inches, but disappeared after a day or two. Then, about the third week in, things typically began to change. The snow started to stick; each successive snow simply adding its load to the one before. By Christmastime we generally had a foot or so of accumulation on the ground. I could sled the block from my grandparents's house down the slight hill to our front gate. When I was five years old a reporter from the local paper came out and did a short photo piece on an igloo my dad had built for me in the back yard. That year, a really severe storm had left drifts level with the front porch and covering the fence—at least five feet deep.
Moreover, December's latter, after-Christmas snows were buried under those of January…and those by the snows which arrived in February. Once that "staying snow" came (which is how I've heard oldtimers refer to that December snow which formed the base for subsequent snows) over the next two months, you weren't apt to see anything but a white ground cover until March. Two-and-a-half or three months of white.
If you talk to many of the real seniors who remember how it was locally just after the turn of the Twentieth Century—oldsters now in their 90s—they'll tell you about going to school and church via horse-drawn sled. Roads were impassible unless you used runners instead of wheels. In the 1900s, the few automobiles around—a lot of them Model T Fords—were thereby shunted to the barn where they were drained of fluids, usually placed on blocks with their wheels removed to prevent damaging stiff rubber tires, covered with a tarp to protect their shiny black paint from pigeon droppings. And there they'd sit, these delicate newfangled vehicles powered by their "infernal combustion engines," ignominiously resigned to some dark corner, under a dusty shroud, awaiting springtime resurrection in March or maybe April, depending on the severity of "mud season."
Nowadays, winter isn't one continuous season of white. Snows fall, lay around awhile, melt. I don't know what the old boys would have done…would they have used wagons or sleds? Runners or wheels? I expect mud would have been a more serious problem, since the ground didn't freeze and stay that way until spring, but periodically thawed into a messy quagmire. However, that flivver in the barn would have been as incapacitated as ever, unlike the 4-wheel drive hill-climbing, mud-hogging, snow-bucking machines of today.
And just to keep the record straight…it's been a couple of hours since I began writing this post. Naturally, I got distracted, watched birds at the feeders, looked at the river, ate an oatmeal cookie—okay, three—talked on the phone, futzed around around with my new i-Pod, uploaded a bunch of shots from the camera to the computer. The snow stopped. The clouds moved off. Now, it is bright and sunny outside. The weather-guessers are suddenly right, like a stopped clock that displays the correct time every twelve hours.
Snow, no snow…