Random Thoughts / The winter of our discontent
Published 4:11 pm, Thursday, February 3, 2011
Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "The Long Winter" tells the story of the year it started snowing in October and barely stopped until May.
The prairie settlers ran out of food and fuel and risked getting lost in blizzards every time they left their homes.
OK, so maybe we don't have it so bad.
After all, our winter didn't really get started until January. But this one month has seemed like the longest winter most of us can remember.
With major storms every few days, no thaws to speak of and drifts as high as the eaves of our houses, maybe someone will write a book about the winter of 2011.
Whether you are at work, in the grocery store or picking up your dry cleaning, every person you encounter has something to say about the weather.
Most conversations begin: "What about this snow?"
There is a long list of responses to that question.
Many will discuss the snow on their rooftops and the heretofore unknown existence of a thing called a snow rake.
Some will talk about how many times their anti-lock brakes engaged while driving that day.
Most will complain about slipping and sliding whenever they walk outside.
Getting the snow out of our way is causing a lot of trouble. We grouse about the hours spent shoveling, and the plowing service that piled frozen mountains so high in front of the garage doors that we couldn't get our cars out.
I gave up on clearing our walk after the last storm.
I lost the battle against the drifts. Now the only way to get to our house is through the garage.
Sometime next spring, we'll probably find boxes of books that we ordered from Amazon lying sodden on our front steps where UPS threw them.
We're distressed by the sheer amount of snow and the height of the drifts piled all over. In parking lots, half the spaces are taken up by ghostly white mounds.
People's decks have collapsed and their roofs have fallen in because of the weight of the accumulation.
We worry about what will happen if we get a new fall because the old stuff just isn't going away.
When we first started talking about the snow there was an edge of excitement to the conversation.
It was new and different to experience such a storybook winter.
The snow coating the branches of bare trees was lovely. Instead of turning into dirty slush, it stayed white and sparkling in the sun -- the rare times it has showed its face.
There is something a bit thrilling about Mother Nature's power and most of us can't remember a winter like this. It made us feel like settlers, like pioneers, like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
At least at first.
Now, our tone has changed. Instead of asking, "What about this snow?," we just say, "The snow ..." We're tired of it.
We're tired of missing work.
We're tired of cleaning off our cars.
We're tired of driving 40 miles an hour on the highway and worrying about whether that car behind us will be able to stop.
We're super tired of having our kids home from school and they're tired of playing in the snow.
We're tired of having doctor's appointments canceled. We're tired of having travel plans go awry.
We are really tired of the weather people being so right. When they say a monster storm is coming, it arrives.
We no longer hope that the meteorologists are exaggerating when they tell us to expect 4 to 8 inches.
Instead, we batten down the hatches and prepare for 12.
Are there any silver linings?
Well, I don't feel cold anymore because I've gotten so used to these frigid temperatures.
I walk around with my coat undone and rarely put my gloves on.
I'm catching up on sleep when school is canceled. I've cleaned out my cupboards on the days I've been stuck at home. I'm not shopping as much because it's too hard to find the sidewalk under the snow.
There's also the cozy feeling that I'm getting from sharing the common bond this wicked winter has given us.
There is a real sense of community.
My students and I tell each other to drive safely. People are watching each other's kids just so everyone can get a break from fixing endless cups of hot chocolate. Total strangers talk to each other about the weather and they linger to exchange stories.
It may be cold and icy outside, but there is a lot more warmth between all of us who are sharing the misery.
The silver linings just don't make up for the snow, however. I'm no Laura Ingalls Wilder and I don't know that I can face another storm.
I'm thinking early retirement in Florida, although I don't much like hurricanes either.