Monday, February 16, 2015

Snow ... A Love Story

It's easy to get bogged down this time of year with blue feelings and discontent. It's cold out, and there are a lot of places this year that have experienced (or are experiencing) significant snowfall.

My first winter in Maine, as I was wishing for a White Christmas, my new relatives warned me that I'd get sick of the snow. It hasn't happened. Yes, come April, when we're out of places to put the snow from the latest storm, it gets a little tedious, but I never, truly, get sick of it, and I never, not ever, pine for places where it doesn't snow. I don't even pine for places where it snows a little, and then, it's gone. I love the winter-long snowpack, but not just because I think it's wicked cool, but also for some pretty real reasons.

  • Insulation - One time my daughters wanted to make those cool colored ice balls. The instructions are to fill a balloon with water, add food coloring, and freeze. The balloon is, then, popped and removed, and as long as the temperature stays below freezing, the balls of ice will stay intact. In the winter, here in Maine, it's usually below freezing, which means, theoretically, that we could fill the balloons and put them outside to freeze, which is what we did. Then it snowed. Two days later, the water-filled balloons, under the snow, were slushy and not frozen. The snow had insulated them and kept them from freezing solid.

    It works the same way with other things, like my precious perennials, which include a lot of different herbs, edible flowers, berry bushes and brambles, and trees. Without the snow cover during the winter, I'd lose many of those plants to the extreme cold, and when we don't have a snow pack, that's exactly what happens.

    The snow pack also protects water lines, which if they aren't buried deeply enough, can burst when there are extremely cold temperatures without an adequate snowpack.

  • Landscaping - I live on a narrow dirt road anyway. I only have a quarter acre of land, and while there's still room for a lot of improvement with regard to my land usage, I'm using most of it ... all the way to the road. During the summer, I barely get my quarter acre. during the winter, my yard and driveway are bigger by two feet all down the road frontage, because the plow doesn't ever plow right up to my property line.

    Yes, it can be a PITA to shovel. It can also be quite a lot of work, especially when the snow is really wet and heavy (like it is every spring and the first few storms in the late autumn), but it can also be fun to dig tunnels and do things like add stairs to the landscape. For a long time, I've wanted some pretty stone steps leading into my yard from the road. When it snows, I get to have steps - not stone steps, but snow steps will do ... for now.

  • Exercise - I don't like to exercise for the sake of exercise. I'm not afraid to work, when work needs to be done, and I'm not one to avoid walking (or biking) where I need to go, if I don't have motorized transportation (and I used to walk 8 miles every weekend to the store and back when I lived in Germany), but I have never been able to do jazzercise on tape or go for a morning jog (when it wasn't part of my job-description) just to be exercising. As such, my life is, what could be described as, sedentary. I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer, for my job, but also just in my every day life. Having my garden gets me outside and exercising during the summer, and shoveling snow gets me outside and exercising in the winter.

    I actually think snow is nature's gift to us so that we can get out and enjoy the winter sunshine and having to shovel keeps us warm when we're out there in what many people consider "frigid" temperatures. But I'll tell you, in spite of what the thermometer says, when one is out there hefting that snow to make a path, there is such a thing as too many clothes, and I've found myself shedding layers on more than one occasion.

  • Water Supply - The Sierra-Nevada mountains have been particularly dry for the past decade, and the absence of a spring snow melt has had a significant impact on the low lands of southwest. They need that deep snow to replenish their water supply.

    Maine is plenty wet enough (at the moment), and while we don't need snow to keep our water levels right, I am incredibly thankful for this snow, because when it melts, it will fill the creeks and rivers, ponds and lakes, and I won't have to worry about diseases that occur in populations where there isn't enough water.

  • Light - The snow is all of the above, but it's also incredibly reflective. Those who've never experienced a significant snow event can't appreciate the line: The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below, and it is just like that.

    Here in Maine, during the winter, the sun is so low on the horizon that we can't even get enough Vitamin D to stay healthy. It could be very bad, especially for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but on those days when it isn't storming, the sky is that fabled crystal blue and sun is bright and the snow is, literally, sparkling. It is the most beautiful and magical thing imaginable.

    At night, when the sky is clear and the moon is bright, it really can be almost as bright as mid-day, and one can't fully appreciate it - the fact that there are no shadows - until the snow melts and then, the night is dark, dark, inky blackness again.

For those who want to hate the snow, because it's inconvenient to have to stay home for a day, or it's difficult to drive in (and having ended up stuck in a snow bank more times than I care to admit this year, I concur that it's difficult to drive in the snow - especially on bald tires), or enough is enough already, let's have Spring, or whatever reason we grumble about the one thing over which we have absolutely no control, ever, nothing I say will change that opinion.

It's been a difficult winter, for me. I've ended up in the ditch - a lot -, my car has been hit twice, because of the weather, and I even had a moderate anxiety attack when having to drive in the snow on, at least, on occasion. I have sore shoulders, and I've done something to my wrist, which makes typing difficult, from having to shovel the snow. Our rabbits and chickens are nearly buried, and we have two bunnies who are loose and running around the yard. They're surviving - I'm not sure how - but because of the snow pack, we won't be able to catch them until some melting occurs.

It's not all roses, but it isn't horrible, either, and even with all of the inconvenience and bother and the unending line of storms every two days that have caused us to miss lots of classes and cancel events, I still love the snow, and I wouldn't have it any other way than it is, right now.

We were standing inside our dining room to take this picture today of our monster chow-chow. We live in a one story house with no basement. The snow is up to the bottom of our windows. If we get much more, and we won't be able to see out ;).

It's beautiful. Isn't it?


  1. I agree - I love the snow and I very rarely get sick of it, but having an excuse to stay home and watch out the windows at the majesty of nature fills my soul up just a little bit.

  2. You have a great outlook on life; something we all could use to advantage. I so enjoy your writing.

  3. Your dog looks so noble in this shot!

    You've reminded me of my father telling stories from his childhood in MI, about walking out of the second-story window at his grandparents' house to get outside as the snow went all the way up to the porch roof. I hope you have an attic with a window. ;)

    I can definitely appreciate your section about water from snow pack. In this area, a great deal of water comes from the Cascades, especially for those in the eastern portion of the state. When we don't have a good snow pack, we're looking at summer water shortages/rationing and the wildfires that come from dry tinderbox forests. Scary stuff when there's not enough water to go around!

  4. Yes! I wish we'd get a lot of snow here every winter, no go though. We did have 1 snow day in November!

  5. I would love to experience that much snow, but we don't get that here. We had some snow (about 5 inches for a few days) this winter, but next to nothing the last two winters. I love snow and we would be fine if we got snowed in. :)