Sunday, December 29, 2013

snow: a diary

Christmas Day
Snow falls thickly, traveling on a light west wind. At almost 15 degrees, it feels mild. I strap on the snowshoes and head to the river. Over a foot of snow on the ground, and fresh snow falling nearly every day.

I measure the snow by guessing how much is piled up on this table.

The path to the river is but a slight indent, a wrinkle, a suggestion, buried as it is under today’s feathery stuff. The snow is like feathers: clean, white feathers. A world thick with feathers. Piled up everywhere, here, there, and especially on the branches of the fir trees, in seemingly odd spots, on the end of branches, sometimes in the middle or wrapped like a cowl around the upper tip of the trunk while other branches and other parts of branches are left unadorned. The snow gathers up in huge balls that look like bulbous mushrooms or ten-gallon hats or rising dough with too much yeast. Thick, feathery scarves wrapped around skinny necks. The snow flurries past me in ebbs and waves, falling in real time, natural time, a rhythm all its own, a rhythm that is true. It swirls around me feeling fresh and clean.

This little guy got a turtleneck for Christmas.

The Next Day, Thursday
I was thinking the other day about snowflakes, about how they say each is unique, that no two are alike. Now how do they know that? I could look it up, and it’s possible I’ve already read about it as I once had a book called “Snow,” and that was all it was about. Snow. So certainly this no-two-are-alike thing was dealt with in that book, was explained, but I don’t remember. I do remember “Snow,” by Ruth Kirk. Three syllables. OK, four.

But that was a digression, for what I’ve been thinking about is this: If each snowflake is different from the next, isn’t it interesting how uniform snow looks once fallen and massed together.

Snow.

The headline for the nation’s weather forecast this morning on www.weather.gov is “Tranquil Weather Will Continue … ” The map looks relativity calm with only isolated spots of color indicating advisories and warnings. One such spot includes my locale, which is under a Lake Effect Snow Warning, but that mostly lies to the north, covering the Keweenaw Peninsula and then down along the U.P.’s western shore. When I head out tomorrow morning I will go west, then south, and as I eyeball the whole length of my route to California all I see is an absence of threatening colors. Except in Oklahoma, where there is a deep blue-green Freezing Fog Advisory. And way over there, covering Los Angeles and Co., is a Red Flag Warning. The hot and dry Santa Ana winds are blowing.

Queen Anne’s lace in snow.

Then Came Friday
The tracks in the snow remind me of all the visitors I have here at the farm. Coyote and deer cross the fields and make ample use of the plowed driveway. Rabbits hop around the house and garage. Mice and voles pop up here and there, their tracks like zippers, sometimes with a snag. Eagles have touched down, have left tracks of wingtips in the snow. I suppose it could be the feathery marks of a hawk or an owl or a turkey vulture, but mostly it is bald eagles that circle the fields, surveying for plunder. They sit singly or in small groups in the trees above the bend in the river. I can see them from the front porch and from the kitchen window, as I do dishes, and I will miss them.

The nation’s weather map is once again benign with a forecast of tranquility. There are some splotches of beige and salmon spilling across my route, warning of things to come, but I should be past those drab splotches before they brighten, or darken, as it were.

Snowman impaled on fir tree.

Saturday
Waking up in Faribault, Minnesota, checking the weather, which yesterday was, indeed, tranquil. All afternoon, from Duluth to Faribault, I drove straight into the sun. Today in Faribault the high is to be 41; tomorrow’s high is to be -1. But I am on my way to Ottawa, Kansas, where today’s high is forecast at 55. Tomorrow, 18. As it says over at weather.gov: “ ... the Tranquil Weather Pattern Begins to Change ... ”

Ah. How I will miss the patterns of snow.

Later, now, in Ottawa, where it is sunny and nearly 60 degrees. There is no snow except for a few small, grungy, blackened scraps tucked deep into shady corners and creases. The last of the snow, I was told, melted today. Tomorrow, I head to Oklahoma and Texas on the edge of an arctic wind.