If you miss your seasons so much, please come & shovel my driveway…
Do you know it?
I have come to.
And I hate it.
Filthy pale freezing cold excrescence from an iron gray sky.
After a blizzard, even a mild one, you can’t move until you start shoveling. Sure, in all but the most rural jurisdictions they plow the main roads. So what? You’re on your own getting past the porch and down the driveway.
The salt they use to improve traction on roads eats away at the steel fenders and undercarriages of cars and trucks, leaving them to rust away as though afflicted with some kind of vehicular cancer. It irritates the pads of dogs’ and cats’ paws, and poisons them when they lick it better. It contaminates ground water and harms nearby aquatic life by raising the salinity of streams and lakes.
Deliveries, however vital, are delayed. Going to work, if you can, entails trudging through waist-high drifts. Your balance, precarious at best, gives way at least once, and as you flail against the fine chill powder vainly seeking the purchase to right yourself you might flash on Jack London’s nameless protagonist freezing to death in the savage cold of a Yukon winter, and you wonder will they find your body before the spring thaw? By the time you arrive at work, shivering and covered in white, you’re greeted with tut tutting and shaking heads.
In the countryside the drifts remain in place until someone moves them. In the city they quickly darken with accumulated soot and the corridors people make passing through start to resemble trench systems from the Great War.
Hanging on branches, it provides a lovely counterpart to the dark evergreen needles, until giving way to the temptation of warmer temps and dumping on your head and shoulders like freezing poop from a passing flight of migrating geese. It sticks to your skin and infiltrates even the best made boots.
I grew up in Los Angeles.
For me snow was the electromagnetic noise that filled the tv screen when our antenna leads came loose. My dad would go outside and rattle the aluminum connectors until we yelled that it was better. Once or twice we’d drive into the mountains, places like Big Bear. My dad would mutter about needing “chains” before long, but then we’d see it — along the highway, clumps of snow that resembled suds from an overflowing washing machine.
Then we’d drive home again.
One winter it got colder than usual. The dogs’ outside water dish froze overnight. “We’re going to have a white Christmas!” my big sister burbled excitedly at dinner one night. I was maybe seven that year. A day or so later my teacher sent me on an errand to the office. Our classroom was in a bungalow alongside the playground. On my way back I noticed tiny flakes in the air like bits of cosmic dandruff. None actually reached the tarmac.
Is it raining? The teacher asked as I took my coat off.
It’s snowing, I said.
The class erupted. Kids ran outside. Some screamed: It’s snowing! It’s snowing!
Teacher finally rounded us up.
I was happy, too, when I heard it was snowing, she scolded gently. But I didn’t leave my seat, did I?
Nearly all of my immediate family came from the east coast. Even my big sister was born in New London, Connecticut.
We miss the seasons! They’d complain, watching holiday specials that portrayed winter in jolly snow-covered meadows and hills. The people looked snug in their overcoats and mittens and gaily-colored mufflers as they drank hot toddies and sang Christmas carols. Los Angeles has always been other places. Like the movies it made that were almost never set there, LA had an evanescent quality that implied an essential transition to other, more authentic and final destinations. That near worship of all things somewhere else.
We arrived in New York City in mid-November of 1996. A blizzard had filled the streets with shoulder-high banks of snow. Children dived from the roofs of buried cars, laughing hysterically, while garbage trucks cum snowplows sealed in sidewalks and crosswalks with mountains of rapidly darkening snow. Pedestrians waited their turn to walk single-file through narrow gaps. Rain would come, but it was never enough, and overnight the remaining snowfall became ice, treacherous to all passersby.
The novelty wears fast.
In the city snow is an inconvenience. In rural settings it signifies the need for backbreaking labor and potential for injuries from pulled muscles to heart attacks. Driving through the mountains on my way home from the city has cost me an additional $1200 in towing fees. Granted these are largely due to my own inexperience driving on snow and ice, as well having to rent a car for our first year in the Adirondacks which left us without four-wheel drive. After nearly careening off the mountainside because the snowfall obscured the stop sign at a sharp left turn, I took the tow-truck driver’s advice to retrace my route to another road that had already been cleared. As I turned the newly freed car around to follow the truck, I realized it was stuck, again. I vainly spun the rear wheels as I watched the lights of my rescurer disappear into the night. I had no way to contact him for another tow. The snow gods must like me more than I like them, because another motorist happened by with chains and a good heart. He politely declined my offer of compensation and wished me a good night.
The people here are good, even if the weather is not.
We bought a Jeep Gladiator — four-wheel drive and, most importantly, painted bright red.
Yes, it’s beautiful here after a blizzard — rolling hills and glens with farms covered in thick layers of pure white, barns and silos creating their own alpine topography, and in nearby corrals horses wear colorful blankets as they breathe out puffs of steamy air.
Make no mistake, however, snow is the devil’s rain.
And the folks in hell don’t simmer.
They shiver. And while they shiver, they shovel…