Sunday, February 9, 2014

Deep Snow

In the days before the storm, we laid in supplies along with everybody else. We tried to shop in off hours to avoid long checkout lines. We called and emailed friends to delay plans. We restacked wood and hauled it inside by the wheelbarrow load. I dug hand warmers and yak trax out of storage.

The day before the front moved in was halcyon, warm as the coming of spring under a south wind. It was a chance to get all the outside work done, but I spent at least half the day playing in the woods. At sunset the sky split open to let the cold front striate the west, layering its colors like a painter. TV weather forecasts predicted 10 inches of snow and ran line after line of closings.

At dawn the sky was white and still, but the snow held off for several hours. It began like gossamer, barely visible in the air. It came down all day long, light and dry and fine. We carried a few more loads of wood inside. I replenished the bird feeders, even though raccoons often try to yank them down after dark. Deer are also fond of sunflower seeds, we discovered. Their agile tongues slip delicately into the ports.

Snow fell for a day and a night. A deep line of cloven hoof prints led to empty bird feeders in the morning. The main deer trail lay unused and pristine when I walked it that afternoon. The next day, many of my footprints held new hoof marks. Velvet noses had delved deep to graze on the liriope, a ground cover the deer ignore when it's clear.

With school canceled, the county road crews took their time plowing. (School bus drivers insist on clear roads. The guys who drive snowplows dig out the bus routes first, intimidated by the gals who drive buses.) The neighbors plowed the lane with a tractor. ATVs roared over the fields. The roads were deserted.

Walking in falling snow can transport you to an alternate reality. Edges blur and waver. Shapes shift. Sounds soften. You begin to listen with your skin. The spaces between trees are portals. Cedars bend under gathering clouds. Underbrush becomes lace. Stillness drifts to unsuspected depths. The timber holds silence. Safe below, the earth holds a promise of snowdrops.

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