Letter from Birdland: Old-fashioned winter's tale

Letter from Birdland: Old-fashioned winter's tale

By the time you read this, we should be past the worst of it. But as of this writing, Birdland is still in the deep freeze. The snow squeaks and crunches underfoot, and the roads are polished and glazed.

The snowplows have carved a channel between drifts, throwing up arctic boulders and chunks along either side of the road. We haven't had any more snow since last week's big storm, and all the tiny crystals of ice have frozen into the snowscape. No loose snow left to drift and blow. It's still too cold to melt, yet the snow shrinks anyway, sublimating directly into the sky. I'm hoping for a snow melt before it all disappears, to soak into the thirsty earth below.

Tomorrow temperatures are forecast to rise up into the 20s, and I'll let the chickens out in the morning. The good thing about a real, old-fashioned winter is that you learn to appreciate a rise in temperature. This morning, 5 degrees felt warm to me in the sunshine; tomorrow will be like a heat wave.

Walking the mile to work from where I park my car, only the tip of my nose was cold. The rest of me was quite warm, bundled inside my coat because of my pace. These past weeks, my walk to work is about five minutes shorter than usual. I arrive early, feeling like I've had a good workout, ready to sit down at my computer and get to work.

Last week, we were snowed in briefly. When I first got home after the big storm, I parked down by the mailboxes in case I had to dig out in the morning to get to work. No sooner did I make the trek down our country lane home did I get a text from Ellis. My youngest needed a ride from town. I turned around and hiked back through the deepening snow to the car. The ride into town was harrowing, and by the time we returned home, I let my weariness get the better of me and drove up the lane and parked in the garage.

Next morning, of course, we had to get up early to dig out. Michael plowed heroically with his little John Deere. My husband likes a winter challenge. But the drifts were 2 feet deep in places. There he could only back up for a running start and then go forward to slam into the drifts. He made progress about 6 inches at a time.

I got the snow shovel and tried to attack those drifts from the top while he backed up, and that helped some. We made slow progress, but I began to see my chances of getting to my first class on time dwindle. I decided to walk out to the head of the driveway, where Michael had left his car the night before (I married a smart man), and work on digging it out. Maybe he wouldn't mind if drove his car to work?

I attacked the drift blocking Michael's little car. I looked up when I heard a grinding sound from down the road. It was our farmer neighbor, Sean, with his big snowplow. I clapped my hands and dropped my shovel.

"Here he comes to save the day!" I sang to him as he swung down from his high seat and walked toward me.

"It looks like Michael has it handled," he said, glancing down our lane, "but would he be offended, do you think, if I helped him a little?"

I assured him that Michael would eventually get over whatever "offense" he might feel. Between the two of them, Sean and Michael carved a path in the lane for my little car, and I plied my shovel to my aunts' walk. I just made it to my first class, though I had to reschedule some student meetings.

The good thing about an old-fashioned blizzard is you get to see who your true neighbors are. Every winter, we owe our thanks to Sean and his brother, Jim, for giving us access to the outside world.

But the snow is not the only hazard of winter. Maybe next week I'll tell you about losing water for several days, when our well froze up. Another good thing about a real, old-fashioned winter in the country is that you appreciate your water and electricity when you have it.

Snow in beauty; plow in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. Winter makes her appreciative of the small things, like a cup of tea warming her cold hands. You can read more of her writings and see photos at letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Hays can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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