Did we make it? Is it over? Winter, I mean — is it really gone?
I’m one of those despised winter-lovers — I appreciate the snap of cold air slicing into my nostrils in the morning, like an ice pick made of actual ice. This is what happens after you live more than two decades in the Arizona desert: You go a little silly for chilly.
But then came the winter of 2014 — and even I could be found hunched in my hoodie on Hammatt Street, arms rigid with hands jammed in pockets like a Lego man, staggering to stay vertical on the patchwork of sidewalk ice, muttering bad words to myself. Crazy cold, wretched wind, endless weeks of freeze-by-night, thaw-by-day, the temperatures hovering just close enough to 32°F to keep slathering fresh layers of frozen glare onto everything in sight, turning our driveways into slalom runs and our snowbanks into solid-ice Himalayas. Winter in New England is lovely, that’s been my mantra since I moved here. But this year, the lovely Lady Winter made herself a damnable wench.
Yet lo and behold, we appear to have survived. It’s time to survey the damage, catalogue our losses, and start concocting stories for our grandchildren that will make this winter out to be even worse than it really was.
It seems hard to believe that a scant eight weeks ago, my wife and I were standing in two feet of snow on our roof, using a pick-ax and a shovel to hack at an ice dam over our daughter’s bedroom. When we finally descended, exhausted and sore, we looked up to survey our work, and saw the forgotten shovel, standing at a forlorn angle in the snow on the roof. We looked at each other, silently flipping an imaginary coin to decide which of us would climb back up there and retrieve it.
“Screw it,” I finally grumbled — and the shovel stood there the rest of the winter, a stalwart, ever-present reminder of just how miserable our misery was.
It never occurred to me to take down our tree swing; it’s made of tough fabric and sturdy dowel rods, hanging on a stout, reliable rope from a great limb of our grand sugar maple. But after one of this winter’s insane 50-mph tempests, I looked out the window to that familiar place, only to see nothing but empty air. Astonished, my eyes searched in every direction, from my neighbor’s snowed-in chicken coop to the igloo-like tombstones of the cemetery next door. The swing seemed to have simply vanished, like a massive blue-canvas pterodactyl, into the wintry night.
Then I happened to glance toward the sky — and there is was. The swirling squall had flung the swing directly up, into the branches of the sugar maple. Then, driving it this way and that, it tangled the pieces in absolutely as many twigs as possible. I thought about getting out the extension ladder. Then I thought about getting out the apple-picker. But then I shivered in the biting cold — and there was really only one thing left to say.
“Screw it,” I grumbled — and the swing hung there, a sprawling, wrinkled carcass, the rest of the winter.
We put out a lovely earthenware birdfeeder last autumn, beautifully glazed in Van Gogh golds and blues. Over the winter, the snow piled high, then higher, until the feeder was entirely engulfed. I knew our charming work of art was safe, in the same way that saplings stay alive under the snow, only to emerge like proud little soldiers in the spring.
Eventually the thawing began, and the mountains of backyard snow began to recede. Finally the day came when the birdfeeder poked its pretty head from out of the dirty whiteness of winter. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The brilliant, smooth blue and gold glaze had cracked and broken off in the cold, leaving nothing but a dejected, roughhewn clay vessel to scowl at me accusingly.
I thought of trudging out through the snow to retrieve it. But no.
There was really only one thing left to say.