Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Watch the skies!

The photo doesn't show it well, but the white stuff is really coming down today in what they'll probably call the Great Groundhog Day Blizzard. The Weather Channel trumpeted that 100 million people would be affected by this weather system, which has included thunderstorms, damaging winds, tornadoes, ice, snow, and combinations of the above. Here in the North Country we are finally getting a snow day, to the delight of everyone who doesn't have to go to work today (including me!) and the not-so-delight to people who have to be out driving in it, like the UPS driver who slid a little as he turned the corner on our street trying to avoid the snow plow in the cul-de-sac.

We went outside about three hours ago and shoveled and snow-blowed the driveway, walkways, and steps. You'd hardly guess now that they had ever been touched. The snow is really coming down! It is about ten degrees, so the snow is very light and fluffy and won't make a snowball, much less a snowperson. It looks a little bit like powdered sugar piled up on the deck -- a LOT of powdered sugar. There's some sleet mixed in with it, little white icy pellets that look like the salt crystals we spread around to melt the ice that builds up on the front steps.

Snow is silent. Rain makes a fair amount of noise: tapping or hissing or glub-glubbing as it comes down the gutterspouts. But you don't know that it's snowing unless you look out. Except for the welcome sound of the snowplow scraping down the street and the salt and sand rattling onto the pavement, the snow deadens sound. Beautiful. Peaceful. Awesome.

I have a lot of snowless years to make up for, a lot of childhood days in New Orleans dreaming of what snow must be like. Today is going a long way toward filling that void.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Always winter, always Christmas!

I took this photo on a recent day trip to Montreal. This lamp-post in Parc Mont Royale reminded me of the lamp-post in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. At the beginning of the story, when Lucy goes from the wardrobe of fur coats into the forest of snowy fir trees in Narnia, she finds a lamp-post in the middle of the woods. And here is another one.

In Narnia, Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus, the faun, who tells her of the White Witch, who makes it always winter and never Christmas. In the North Country, it's been winter now for two or three months, and there are two or three more to go. It only seems like it's always winter.

But in the North Country, I've discovered, people leave their decorations up after Christmas. Wreaths, bows, lights, everything. Some continue to turn on their lights in the evenings. It really is neat -- I like to say that the city looks like a Currier & Ives Christmas card. When I asked why people leave their decorations up after Christmas, I got three responses:

1. It's too darn cold to take them down.
2. The nights are so long and dark, the lights cheer people up at night.
3. We leave them up until spring comes, or maybe Easter. (Easter is not necessarily spring in the North Country.)

I'd like to think that people in the North Country have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and have taken it to heart. If it's going to be "always winter," then by golly, it's going to be "always Christmas." Aslan is here, even in the dead of winter. Take that, White Witch!