Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Under Cover

‘Tis the season for piling on the blankets. For soups and stews. For fires in the grate and the hum of heaters. Most of the U.S. is digging its way out from under snow.

Here in Oregon, we’ve spent every ski day with fat flakes falling or threatening to fall. With wind. With sleet. But our day to day, our Monday through Friday, here on the valley floor is punctuated by fog. And rain, saturating the lawn, mud caking the sliding glass door where the dog plants big, wet pawprints.

I grew up in the Sierras. Right here, where this photo was taken (many thanks to Charlie's aunt who allowed me to display it). Snow was a hefty, physically-imposing thing that piled up, covered, weighted down. It obscured windows. It reached rooftops. For parts of the season, you’d only see the tips of familiar trees and on the mountain roads, the street signs were lost completely, the tall, thin snow stakes the only markers along the curves of the pavement.

We’d slide off our roofs on sleds or jump off to imprint deep snow-suited forms in the powder of the yard. We’d burrow under it until the shouts of our friends were as muffled as if we had stuffed cotton in our ears. Teenage boys made a killing shoveling the stuff off rooftops, feet slipping on shingles, fingers numb with cold, taking all that extra weight off homes. We’d await the snowplow scraping its path, leaving us with wakes of giant snow mountains on each side of our narrow roads.

If the nights got cold enough, we’d ice skate on our previously dirt road. When we got older, we’d snow tube behind friends’ cars on Saturday nights, the boys trying to impress each other (and scare the girls) spinning out in doughnut-formations in parking lots.

Our horses trudged through it, powder caking in their hooves until they wobbled. We’d chip it out with hoof picks, lay down straw, offer them steaming buckets of oats. They’d form their own haphazard paths behind their fences and stick to them day after day until their corrals resembled oversized ant farms.

We drove in it, windshield wipers doing double time, wheels sliding, headlights illuminating each individual flake and parting it from the whole like the sifting of something precious and fine.

We’d get stuck in it, and we’d push and pull and tow ourselves out.

It piled on top of our fence posts and our driveway basketball hoops. It reduced our tarped wood piles to formless, hulking lumps beside our garages. It stuck to our cheeks and turned them pink, and it packed between our cuffs and our gloves, leaving the skin of our wrists an angry red.

It stuck buses in ditches and cancelled school. It melted on our entry way floors as we stripped layers, right down to L.L. Bean long underwear, and warmed ourselves by the stove in our nearest friend’s home, hot chocolate in hand.

We measured it in feet, not inches, and at the risk of annoying everyone out there who still lives where I lived or somewhere like it, at the risk of enraging all of you stuck behind doors and fighting through blizzards and bracing against unseasonable cold, I have to say that I miss it terribly.

This post inspired by the writing workshop at Mama's Losin' It.
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