The north east has been hit with our first big snowfall of the season. It had been a remarkably warm and green winter here so far. But it is cold this morning. 15° F is the expected high temperature for that day. Snow flurries, come and go. Winds blow fallen snow into deep drifts.
Snowfall does little to disrupt the daily lives of northerners. The threat of a blizzard will send people racing to the market, clearing shelves of bread and milk “just in case.” Then, with grocery sacks packed into their back seat, most will go about their business as usual. Blizzard conditions will slow traffic. But slower traffic means that there is traffic. People of the north will grumble about the need to shovel snow and scrape car windows. They will cuss over all of those reckless “others” who haven’t “a lick of sense about how to drive” on icy, snow covered roads. But neither ice nor bad drivers or even being told by the local police force to “stay at home if you don’t have to travel” are enough to keep them at home and off the streets. It always makes me wonder, “what is so bad about their home that they can’t bear to stay there?”
Not me. I have no problem shutting the door and living off my pantry stores for a few days or at least until the snow plows have time to catch up and the road salt begins to melt patches of deceptive black ice. There are enough DVD’s and unread books on my shelves to keep me entertained through a good long winter storm. A blustery white out is a good excuse to laze around in fuzzy slippers and warm flannel pajamas all day.
And a fresh snowfall is always a good excuse to take a morning walk.
Looking out through my window I hadn’t realized how much snow had fallen overnight. Crossing the front lawn the snow almost reaches my knees. If you have never walked through a foot of snow, I can tell you that it will give you quite a workout.
Usually when we have just a dusting or maybe an inch are two of snow cover, I will find what could be described as animal track highways running through my back yard. Neighborhood cats, raccoons, possums, rabbits, mink, field mice, squirrels and chipmunks all leave crisscrossing trails. Deer track cross the lawn between the wooded area to the east and the wooded area to the west where a natural spring flows despite freezing temperatures, providing a year-round water source. The deer often pause beneath my crab apple tree where, even in January, a few red apples remain to give them a pre-dawn snack.
Yesterday morning, possum track led to the barn door where previous digging allows many small critters to easily slip under the door and into the relative warmth inside. Although unheated, the barn at least provides refuge from snow and blowing winds. In past years our barn had become a winter home for feral cats. We have had as many as nine at one time. Last winter we had only one. This year I have yet to have even a single feline visitor. It may be that coyotes have decimated their numbers. Nevertheless, a heated water bowl inside the door awaits all small visitors. I feed the displaced domestic cats when we have them. But the possums and other wild creatures are left to find their meals in the woods or, more often, in my compost pile. A night vision motion camera has proven time and again that they feast greedily on my kitchen scraps, leaving little to decompose into fertilizer for my spring flower gardens.
There are no tracks today. None cross the lawn. I find none on the trails that pass through the woods. Barricaded in their holes or settled deep within thick brush piles, all have chosen to wait out the storm at home. The only tracks that mar the smooth snowy surface are my own.
The birds are not deterred by the cold. Dozens, if not hundreds it seems, of finches, sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, jays and more flock to my feeders. They remind me that I need to buy another 20 lb. sack of seed the next time I go out. I top off the feeders, put out a new suet block, and toss a few handfuls of corn atop the snow for the ground feeders hoping it will last through the day.
The snowplow passes by, one of the benefits of living on a main highway.
I hear a neighbor start up his snow blower. I’d walk over and chat but he lives a fair distance away, beyond the trees, and I’m already feeling colder. Our own car is trapped between heavy drifts in the driveway. I could nag my husband to go out and get our own snow blower moving, but there doesn’t seem to be much point. It’s Sunday and lake effect snow is predicted to fall until Monday. We have no plans to go out today. Might not go out tomorrow either. Might just as well sit inside and “let it snow.”
The sun tries to peek through the clouds making for some pretty photo ops but my fingertips are starting to hurt even though I’m wearing fleece lined gloves. It reminds me just how cold the thermometer says it is. I trudge back toward the warm house, grateful that I am not a rabbit living in a hole or even the visiting possum that has likely settled into a dark corner of the barn.
It’s a good day to bake some bread. It’s a good day to settle down on the sofa with a cup of tea and a cat in the lap watching the birds outside the sunroom windows. I think there might even be a jigsaw puzzle in my future.