Oh, where does a January day go? Blink and it’s over. Forget taking a nap. Who can take a chance?
With very little effort and a few good dreams you could wake up to February and then what? A movie is somewhat safer. Still, it does eat up half the day.
Sometimes I forget to turn off the sound function on my computer so in the middle of a perfectly simple, tasteful moment of winter reverie at home, I’ll hear, “It’s three o’clock.” That after another reminder from the bells of the Methodist church three blocks away.
I’m sure the computer gods have market-tested the deep female voice chiming the hour because the truth be told the voice, if not the message, is pleasant though initially jarring.
Still, how can it be three o’clock when it was just one? How can the Vietnam war be 40 years ago? How can someone be driving and thinking of college when just yesterday she was writing a backwards “J”?
These days, taking a short break from the South, I am in and out of snow country where time and light and even color take on different meanings. But the first time I heard “lake effects” mentioned on the radio - followed by a list of school closings - it all started to come back.
Same with seeing those cone-shaped buildings along the highway, the ones that store rock salt (cone-shaped, I learn from a highway patrol officer, because that’s the form salt takes when poured). While so much about the country’s regions are now the same - the ubiquitous Dollar General, Family Dollar, the golden arches of Mickey D - you will not see these cone-shaped structures anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.
If I forgot anything about winter in my youth it quickly returned when I looked at my car after one day of driving. Wash it quickly. Wash it often, I was told. The salt will eat it up.
To say nothing of what those salt particles do to a dog’s foot. While I am resisting dressing my dog in a jacket, I would consider little booties for my dog’s feet.
Not really. Dogs are made for this weather. They live for it. While I spend a good five minutes zipping, wrapping, draping, shrouding and veiling every square inch of bare skin - then debating which hat to wear - Charlie ventures out in her veritable birthday suit. Then she really shows off by rolling, twisting and burying herself in the white stuff and pouts when I say we have to come inside.
Of course she doesn’t have to deal with handling a car key with the encumbrance of gloves or finding a car key when it drops into a snow drift or inserting a car key into a lock that is frozen (which is why you should always carry WD-40 - water displacement, 40th attempt, according to Wikipedia - a winter tip I overheard on a Canadian radio station).
One day I will buy or find the proper scraper, too. For now it’s the edge of my credit card for scraping the windows and my broom, which lives permanently in the back seat of the Taurus.
The smart people have garages and window wipers for their rear windows. Which is good because I just learned you can get a ticket if your back window is covered with snow.
Other things come back as well. Like how hunched up one walks trying to avoid a fall, shoulders all drawn up to your ears, neck flung forward, all the better to see where you’re stepping. But there’s always a better mousetrap. Someone who was walking his dogs garbed in jackets (“my wife made me”) just told me about a product called Yaktrex. They slip over your shoes and grip the ice. Top of my to-buy list.
A few more things I’d forgotten about snow. Like nothing else, it will totally muffle sound, especially at night when all you hear is the crunch of your own footstep. The flakes, when falling, descend randomly, cock-eyed, aimlessly. The same flake can aim down, then up, then reverse course and head sideways. The flakes are light, almost weightless, more like bird feathers than salt or sugar, though when they accumulate on a branch or a bud, powdered sugar does come to mind.
And if it’s hard to discern east from west - since the sun is but a blur in the gunmetal gray sky - you can figure it out from how and where the snow and the ice pile up, which is usually on the north side of the street, away from the albeit weak rays of the sun.
Like in the hot, hot summer of Savannah, when you learn to seek the shady side of the street, in snow country you find clear sidewalks on those that face south.
With nothing to weed, nothing to compost, nothing to pick, my gardening itch goes into web searches of other gardeners. There are hundreds to choose from.
From a Brooklyn gardener, I read this Yiddish proverb: “A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.”
Soon there will be garlic again.
Soon there will be summer.
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