09 January 2007

When Bad Weather Happens

It was with a sinking feeling that we saw it go from yesterday's 50 degrees, which had a nice melting effect on the heaps of snow that have piled up around us since the third week of December, when we started getting these weekly poundings, and we listened to the TV meterorologist tell us we're about to get another 6-8 inches or so, just before the weekend. What the heck is going on here? I hear the cherry blossoms and crocuses are springing forth in profusion on parts of the Eastern U.S. There was also the story a couple of days ago in the New York Times about this forlorn snow measuring station, which hasn't had any snow around it to measure for a couple of years.

And I kept thinking of the parallel: if it's springtime weather on the East Coast of the U.S. (and heaven knows where else -- feel free to comment on the weather in your locale now or whenever you read this), these are certainly spring conditions here as well. We don't usually get these repeated big snows this early in the season. Usually we're hoping for an inch or two of snow by Christmas, and everything is just brown, dormant, and dry. This is March and April, even May snow, these foot-at-a-time storms. Storms we can't keep up with in terms of snow clearing and removal, especially when we keep getting hammered by more bouts of bad weather.

This winter, the joke is on us: Like people on the many great days in Seattle, we can often be found throughout the winters smugly talking amongst ourselves about the 300 days of sunshine every year, the snowstorms followed by 50- or 60-degree days that melt off any accumulation almost instantaneously. Not for us Rochester or Boston or Buffalo's banks of dirty snow and slabs of ice for months -- at least not until this year. Suddenly we get what it's like to live in Minnesota. Now I see why my granddad had to work hard to afford a live-in gardener and a maid -- it would be impossible to keep up with the shoveling alone for his big manse on a Minneapolis lake without help, even for someone as fit and able as he was then. He probably had his gardener drive a snowplow in the winter and a riding mower in the summer -- that place was huge.

And why don't the ladies of my grandparents' generation shovel? I suppose they do if they're on their own. But to my living (step)grandmother and my deceased grandmothers, shoveling is strictly the man's job. My neighbor doesn't shovel because of her back, and there are times when I can't either. But usually I shovel as much as anyone around here -- it's great exercise. Gets right at those lovely core muscles.

Here, every day we hear new stories about where and how people got stuck and dug out. My daughter's teacher told us about getting stuck on her own un-plowed street. My best friend came over to bake brownies for the six people who dug (and provided kitty litter and rugs, etc.) her out when she got stuck on her coworker's cul-de-sac.

Every day the storms' collected remnants evolve. We are seeing heaped black snow at the sides of the roads now, from the bases of which treacherous ice seeps. At the playground this morning, the kindergarteners were all over a tower of what had been snow but was rapidly melting and compressing into a hard block of ice. Every day my daughter comes home saying she slipped and fell on the ice on the playground. We're not used to all of these hazards all the time.

It's funny, because if we find the world frozen and icy up in the mountains, we've chosen to go up for a reason (skiing, most likely) and therefore everything is good, part of the experience. We've skied on days when you couldn't see for all the snow falling and the quiet was the sweetest, softest thing in the world, and on days when the sun was melting the snow as fast as we could ski it (and that melty spring snow is fast!). And of course now we've brought all our cold-weather gear and are wearing windproof fabrics and shoes with lots of tread on them. When I was a kid, the good stuff was good when you had it: down always, wool yes, cotton: well, that was all we knew. we didn't know yet about wicking, so that was usually the underlayer, whether turtleneck or undies or jeans or all of those. I love being warm in bad conditions. It makes me feel lucky to be alive now.

The thing that mystifies me these days -- and perhaps marks me as a fogy -- is seeing people walking around downtown in flip-flops when there's slush and sleet everywhere. Or little mules, shoes that leave the heels free. Or strappy sandals. Why wouldn't you want your feet covered up on a cold night? That's what tall, sexy boots are made for, if you must be impractical. I just go ahead and wear my big ugly shoes a lot in the winter -- they're comfortable and I know I can do anything in them. My grandmother would be horrified that I let myself be seen in such ugly shoes. I have her to thank for not being able to succumb to the crocs trend that has swept my town. I can't do it on these lugs. My mom loves uggs, speaking of big ugly shoes, and I haven't quite been able to go there with my big feet, but I swear by my shoes. Last time I went to London, I didn't pack any extra shoes. I wore a pair of Merrells, everywhere. (And they're more and more stylish than they were when I bought my first pair -- my latest pair has colorful dots at the ends of the shoes -- they're pretty. Now I have my eye on a pair of brown or black leather ones that look like clogs.)

For now, I have to earn some money, get that flow happening again. Time to go to work and stop yammering about the weather and shoes.

No comments: