Spring Snow


Just…..yuck.

I hate spring snow. I just hate it. The fat, slow falling, dreary clumps of slush that pour down on us, masquerading as snowflakes. The wet, cold, raw air.

The sad little tips of the daffodils poking up through the icy mud.

Yuck.

I hate it.

Today the spring slush is falling on my still snowy yard. The kids and I are inside the house, huddling near the wood stove in an effort to keep warm. Why does it feel so much colder in March when it snows than in January when the frigid winds are blowing?

This weather makes me physically yearn for warmth, sunshine, a dry sandy beach.

But I’m stuck here in New England with spring slobbering its way through the woods.

So I’m casting my mind back, through the many years, to another March day in this very same part of the world.

I’m going back 29 years, to the spring when we had just moved into this house. I was about 4 months pregnant with my second child. It was early in the pregnancy, but I was already awkward and off balance.

One morning I woke up to see heavy flakes of slush falling through the air. The sky was low, gray and forbidding. I didn’t feel like sitting at home in this neighborhood where I didn’t know a soul. It seemed like a good day to drive around, maybe get to know the area a bit.

My daughter Kate was four years old. A happy little sprite who was always up for an adventure. The two of us set off to see the world, trying to ignore the blops of mush on the windshield.

In the town next to ours, I found a big furniture store, housed in an old wooden building. There was a wide farmer’s porch running the length of the building, and rows of rocking chairs were set out for sale. They made me think of summer nights, and I was intrigued.

I got Katie out of the car and we headed up the worn planks of the front steps, onto the porch. The interior of the store, I remember, was kind of dark and felt damp. The furniture was way out of my price range, but it was nice to just walk around a bit. I like the old timey feeling of the place and it made me happy about our move.

There was an “older gentleman” in the store. (Looking back, I’m sure he was younger then than I am now. Still, he seemed old to this young momma!) We chatted a bit, but it didn’t make a big impression.

Then Kate and I headed back out toward the car.

The slush was falling thick and fast at that point, the the wooden steps were coated. As I reached for Kate’s hand, I felt myself slip. My fit went out from under me, and I landed gracelessly and painfully on my rear. Before I could really react, the older man came out of the store and helped me gently to my feet.

“Come sit down,” he said very calmly but firmly.

I was embarrassed, and also soaking wet. My knees were shaky from the shock of falling, but I knew that I wasn’t hurt. “I’m fine,” I said, intending to slink off into the car with Kate and forget the whole thing.

“Momma,” the man said, “You need to sit for a minute. We need to wait just a bit till you catch your breath.”

I remember that he had very blue eyes, and that they looked worried. I realized that he was worried, not about me and my snowy bottom, but about the baby I was carrying.

“OK,” I said. He lead us inside, and I sat in one of the comfortable wooden rockers. I held Kate on my lap. We started to chat again, but this time both of us were paying more attention.

The man asked about Kate, about her age and her name and her favorite toys. I told him that we had just moved to town and he gave me pointers about local stores, parks, restaurants.

I don’t know how long I sat. Not long, I’m sure. After a few minutes, it was clear that all was well and that other than my pride, I hadn’t hurt anything of importance.

I shook hands with the thoughtful man, whose name I have either forgotten or never thought to ask. Kate and I went back home, through the slush, into the safety and warmth of our new house.

A house which now felt cozy and comforting, because I knew that we had landed in place where people were naturally kind.

Remembering that long ago encounter, I am feeling just a little bit better about the stuff that is falling relentlessly from the sky.

Living in the moment


I bet you’ve heard the term “Mindfulness” by now, right?  Its a way of thinking that helps people to tune out all the static in our heads, and to simply savor the present moment.

I heard about the idea from a wonderful therapist, who suggested that I try to practice this gentle form of semi-meditation every day.  It sounded fabulous to me!  I would learn to feel the beauty in every day. I would learn to feel the air, to smell the earth, to see the blue, blue sky.  I embraced the concept!

Because it was June.

It was easy to live in the moment when the moment was 70 degrees and smelled like lilac blossoms.

Its not so easy right now.

Right now, if I “breathe deeply and draw the air slowly into my lungs”, I’ll have an asthma attack.  Right now, if I try to smell the earth, the hair in my nose will turn into tiny icicles that threaten to pierce my brain.  And as for that blue sky?  HA! If I try to gaze up at it, snowflakes will coat my eyeballs in an instant.

Right now, my world looks like this:

Mailbox

I do NOT want to live in this moment.  Nuh, uh.

But the funny thing is, I think that most of actually do tend to believe that the present is forever. Right now, summer seems impossible.  I don’t believe that it really exists, or that it will ever come back. And I bet that a year from now I’ll have a conversation with someone about snow, and we’ll try to remember how bad this winter was.  And we’ll have to go look it up, because we won’t remember the details.

And I bet that on a steamy night in July, when the air is so thick you can see it, I won’t be able to envision the icy feel of this morning, when it is 8 below zero.

So maybe I am “mindful” after all.

Which is kind of a pain in February.

It’s all in how you look at it.


 

When I was a little girl, my sister and I watched a Disney movie called “Polyanna”.  In the movie, a little girl (played by Hayley Mills, how’s that for a good memory?) comes to live with a grumpy old lady.  I don’t remember much about the story, except that there was a scene where Polyanna notices a prism hanging in the old lady’s window, and makes a big deal of the beautiful rainbow and all the colors.  The old lady notices the beauty for the first time, and the two of them take apart all of her lamps and hang prisms all around the house.

Not the most subtle of metaphors, but it stuck with me.

This morning I woke up to yet another school cancellation day. I have nothing to do, having prepared my lessons and done my corrections yesterday.  I have baked brownies, made meatballs and sauce, walked the dogs, done laundry, read a kids book for the class.  I am bored. And cold. And crabby.

I want sun!  I want warm breezes!  I want to barbecue, but the grill is buried in four feet of snow.

I look out my living room window, and see nothing but white.  I’m sick of watching snow fall; its making me dizzy.  The garden fence is almost buried.  My walk is only a foot wide, with five foot walls on either side.

The window is filled with icicles, handing down from every inch of the gutter.  Sharp, jagged, icy teeth, making me shiver just looking at them.

I decided to lie down on the sofa so I could fully indulge in my misery.  I wanted to look at the icicles, those threatening, terrifying blades clustered together, reminding me that I am falling farther and farther behind in the curriculum, and that the kids will be distracted little cyclones tomorrow.  I wanted to use the image of the ever growing ice daggers to help me enhance my total crabbiness.

But guess what? When I laid myself back on the pillow and looked out the window, I found myself looking through the beautiful fused glass wind-chime that my son and his girlfriend gave me for Christmas.  All of a sudden, the icicles were shining through the brilliant colors of the glass, and the little bit of sunlight that was leaking through made them gleam like rainbows.

My plan was thwarted; my crankiness went away.

I felt like Pollyanna!

SONY DSC

That Winter Moon


Winter-moon

There is something supremely magical about a mid-winter moon.

It shouldn’t feel like magic, I think. It should feel like a threat.  Like a dangerous, biting creature that waits to pounce. The wind is howling, carrying plumes of snow across the yard.  It feels dangerous out here.  The moon rides high and distant, looking down from far, far above.

But in spite of the icy bite, in spite of the shivering icy fingers that reach for me, I can’t help noticing the magic that shines from that frigid silver face. Magic seems to shiver in the air under the trees.

On a night like tonight, in the darkest part of winter, there is powerful magic in stepping outside when the moon is high and the stars are crisp.  The silver of the moonlight is like dust, sifting down and coating the darkest needles of the pines that surround our deck.  The light is cold and distant, but it reaches into the dark woods, lighting the crust of snow that lies beneath the trees.

I lean on the deck rail, looking out into the forest, seeing the moon’s glow spread out below me. I see  mysterious tracks winding around the trunks of the trees.  Are they coyote tracks? Or deer? Or are they simply the tracks of my dog as she takes her morning stroll?

I don’t know.  I can’t tell from up here, but it doesn’t matter.  The silvery, shivering light of the nearly-full moon is flowing down onto the snowy woods, and the dark shadows of the animal tracks only serve to prove that magic is everywhere on this icy mid-winter night.

There is something magical and strong in the silvery light of a mid-winter moon.

HELP!!!! This is New England in January and its going to SNOW!!!!!!


800px-Blizzardof78MapleSt

Oh. Dear. God.

It’s going to snow!!!!!  Red alert!! Red alert!!!  Duck and cover!

Run right out and by a generator!  Help, help, help!!!

According to the Weather Channel and CNN, this will be a “historic storm”!!!!!!    The sound you hear is me, screaming in fear!

Only I’m not.

See, I’ve lived here my whole life.  (I am beginning to wonder why, but that’s another post for another day.)   When I was a kid, we used to have really big snowstorms all the time.  I remember piles of snow that were big enough to build those awesome tunnels and caves through the snow mounds.  I remember snow so deep that we’d sled down the piles that were made in front of our house.

OK, so granted I was only about 4 feet high at the time, but still.

When we moved out here to this house in Central Mass, around 25 years ago, we didn’t even call the plow guy to clear the driveway if there was less than 7 inches of snow.  This week, though, the TV guys referred to an upcoming storm as “the first major storm of the season”.  Everyone got all hyped up. They ran out for bread and milk.  The news guys predicted power outages, wet, heavy snow, downed power lines, black ice, you name it.

We got about 6 inches of lovely fluffy snow that drifted down gently all day.

That used to be “a nice day” in January.  Now it gets its own “Breaking News” coverage.

Sigh.

So tonight I am highly skeptical.  You see, the local news, New England Cable News, the Weather Channel and CNN are all breathlessly warning “millions” of Americans about the “historic” storm that is coming to slam us.  It even has a name: Winter Storm Juno.

Maybe I’d be more impressed if they had sense enough to give the big storms scarier names.  Like “Bruno” or “Amazonia”.  But “Juno”?  I ain’t scared.

I predict that all the schools in the entire region will shut down. Offices will close. Highways will be shut down.  People will panic and liquor stores will be overrun.  Everyone will pull out blankets, make vats of soup, find their candles and hurricane lamps.  There may even be some preemptive Monopoly games set up.  We will all huddle in front of the TV, where we’ll watch highly underpaid weather people standing on the beach making breathless statements about the snow.  “It’s really snowing, Mike”, they’ll tell the anchorman sitting in the nice warm studio.  “It sure is snowy.  Cuz of the snow falling. Wow.  Really, really snowy, Mike.”  They’ll squint into the camera and then bend down and pick up some snow. “This is snow”, they’ll say. “It sure is snowy.” The anchorman, Mike, will smile smugly and say, “Thanks, Chuck! You stay safe out there now!”   The weatherman, trying to make two inches of snow into an actual story, will nod grimly.  Inside his head, he’ll be thinking, “Fuck you, Mike, you smug asshole.”

Meanwhile, with the entire New England region completely shut down, everyone will start texting each other about Tom Brady’s balls (sorry, couldn’t resist).

And we’ll get ten inches of snow. Max.

I’m not buying the hype. Nuh, uh. No way.

Of course, I didn’t buy the hype on Feb. 5th, 1978 either.  I was on my way to my college classes in a car full of fellow students (my now husband included).  We heard a prediction of a major snowstorm, with up to 28 inches of snow.  I laughed, and shook my head.  “Nah”, I said calmly. “They just like to scare us.  It won’t be anything.”

It was, of course, the famous “Blizzard of ’78”.

I got home four days later.

Happy Snowstorm, my friends! My your beer last as long as your Monopoly game!

Home


Whose tracks are these?

Winter nights

Sometimes I am just so incredibly grateful for the safety and predictability of my life.

It has been an unusually cold, harsh winter.  It has snowed  nearly every two days for weeks. The piles of snow in the yard now cover every bush and plant and tree stump. The pine trees in the woods behind our house are bending over in the wind, covered with mounds of icy frosting. Hungry birds cluster at the suet basket, desperate for food.

When the wind blows, my bay window fills with a screen of snowy crystals. I shiver as I watch them swirl past.

I am safe inside.  I have a solid roof, sturdy walls, a furnace at the ready.

Sometimes I am just so happy that I can stay right here.  On days like this, in months like this one, in winters as cold as we are seeing now, I am so happy that I can stay on my couch, my coffee cup in hand.  I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to have flour and yeast and eggs and honey as I mix up a batch of bread dough and let the warm smell fill my kitchen.

But on days like this one, as I stir my soup and hug my dogs and wrap up in another woolen sweater, I am also intensely aware of all of the people in my world who aren’t as lucky as I am.

I look out into the icy blue woods, and I think of people in my state, in my town, who are huddled somewhere tonight just praying that the cardboard box will keep out the vicious wind.  That tomorrow the soup kitchen will have something really hot to keep them going one more day.

I’m thinking of children, hungry tonight, and cold.  I’m thinking of young mothers, heating ramen noodles in tiny apartments, hoping that the heat will stay on for one more night.

I stand at my window, watching the world as if I am once again inside of a snow globe.  I think of my three young adult children, financially still fragile but protected by parents who will never let them be cold and afraid.  I feel my good luck in my bones and in my heart.  A part of me that I never earned, but which I cherish.

I am so grateful for this humble home.  So incredibly aware of how lucky I am today to be here. Warm and safe and at rest.

And I am so aware of my responsibility and my sense of duty to those who are not as lucky as I have been.

In the “richest country in the world”, in the “greatest country that has ever existed”, I stand at my window, looking out into another winter night.  I wonder what it is that we need to do to make sure that every single child has a warm bed tonight.

 

Internal debate


royalty-free-photos-angel-and-devil-kindness-and-evil-12174545

If I was a natural optimist, I would never have started this blog.

I mean, this whole writing exercise was the suggestion of a therapist, who probably just wanted me to stop whining and taking up valuable couch space.

I’m Italian.  I’m a Pisces.  Drama is my middle name. I gripe, therefore I am.

Lately, though, I have been trying hard to look on the bright side of things. I’ve been trying not to cry and moan and complain so often.  I smile so much at school that my cheek muscles get sore (oops! That was a complaint, huh? See how hard this is for me?) I work very hard to see all points of view and to empathize with everyone around me.  I try to speak positively and look at the future with hope and pleasure.

But you know what?   It’s March and we’re in the middle of yet another whopping snowstorm.  More shoveling, more slush, more wet-dog-smell.  I’m trying to be positive here, but its damn near impossible at this point!

I am supposed to be picking up my baby boy for Spring break today!!!!   I took the school day off, and left elaborate lesson plans all neatly queued up on my desk!

And now its a snow day.  I can’t hit the road to head west until the plows come by, and I wasted three hours of writing, organizing and copying things for my sub.  And, to add insult to injury, I have to make the day up.  In June.

Sigh.

I’m trying to be upbeat.  I am!

But I am turning into one of those cartoon characters with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. You know the ones I mean, right?  The angel whispers positive messages in the right ear, but the devil whispers bad stuff in the left?   Yep.  That’s what’s happening in my tiny brain today.  Snow is pretty-angel.  Snow sucks-devil.

Kind of sounds like this:

Look how the snow coats the trees like lovely whipped cream!

Look how the snow is breaking the branches. The yard is gonna be a mess in April.

The snow flakes look so peaceful, falling gently.

I am so bleepin sick of feeling like I live in a snow globe!  Its making me dizzy.

We can go snow shoeing!

I want to go swimming!

We can sit by the fire tonight.

All this smoke is giving me asthma.

There has been so much snow this winter; the plants will really thrive with all this moisture!

There has been so much snow this winter; we’re going to be eaten alive by mosquitos!

Gosh, how nice to have a snow day! I can catch up on some housecleaning chores.(Angels always things like ‘gosh’ and ‘golly’. Makes me want to slap them.)

Damn, another snow day! We’ll be in school ’til freakin’ July! (Devils are of course, potty mouths. I can relate.)

And on and on it goes. I want to be positive, but I also want to be a size 8 blonde, walking on a beach on Oahu. Some things are not meant to be.

Damn!  That’s a lot of freakin’ whipped cream.

Snow day in the empty nest


snowflake_new_year_wallpaper-other

I miss my kids.  I really, truly do.  I miss those little feet running up and down the hall. I miss the pancake breakfasts and the sweet maple kisses of thanks that came with them.

I miss snow days with my little ones; watching TV in our pajamas, baking cookies, sledding in the backyard.  I miss those days.

On the other hand.

Snow days in the empty nest are actually pretty sweet in their own way.  As part of my effort to come to terms with my life after mothering, I have been learning to embrace the little things in life.

I have learned that empty nesting snow days can be one of life’s unexpected little pleasures.  But you have to be careful to make them all that they can be. There are certain rules that absolutely must be followed in order to experience the full pleasure of the day.

Rule number one: No matter what time you wake up, you must give a big sigh, pull the nice soft blankets back up over your shoulders and drift back to sleep.  This is an indulgence that cannot be missed.  (Note: this may require a preemptive run to the bathroom around 4 AM, but its worth it.)

Rule number two: After you lie around for a while and enjoy the realization that the sun is up and you aren’t, you have to get up and make a cup of your favorite coffee.  Then you must sit someplace very comfortable (for example, your nice leather sofa) and drink the coffee very, very slowly.  You have to taste each sip and appreciate its warmth as it slips down your throat.  Every once in a while, you must say, “mmmmmmm” and mean it.

Rule number three: After you have thoroughly enjoyed your coffee, you have to choose your next activity.  These choices should include at least three pleasures that you can’t usually enjoy on a work day. In my case, I had to decide between making a nice fluffy omelette, soaking in the hot tub or lying on the bed with a trashy novel. If you know me, you won’t be surprised to hear that I chose option A.  And it was GOOOOOOD.

In the empty nest, your snow day stretches out in front of you with no interruptions.  You can take a nap. You can bake a cake, or spend some time on your elliptical machine or clean out that closet in what used to be your son’s room.

You can make a fire, and pull out your knitting, and you can sit there for hours working on a blanket while you watch “Houston Animal Cops” on TV. No one will ask you to make them a sandwich. You can write letters to old friends without worrying that somebody will belt somebody and make you act as referee.

As the day begins to wind down, and darkness falls, you can mix up some delicious tropical drinks (I keep coconut rum on hand for emergencies just like these…you can’t be too careful, you know!) and set out some snacks and you and your spouse can enjoy a lovely happy hour together as dinner cooks.  As an empty nester, you know that you won’t have to get up with a crying kid tonight.  You won’t have to drive anywhere for at least 24 hours and if the power goes out, you’ll just snuggle under those blankets and wait for it to come back on.

I do miss my kids and those lovely Mommy days, really.

But you know what I’m thinking right now?  Bring it on, Nemo!