The Melt

We New Englanders are moving into pre-spring.  With temperatures in the 40s for a couple days, many of us have a bit of a lift in our step, smiling and soaking in the cool air.  Until we hit black ice and fall on our ass. I love the snow, and I much prefer snow season to the season of Melt.  The below-normal cold temperatures has kept our driveway snow-packed for the last couple months.  With a good pair of boots, my feet stay warm and my body stays upright with a layer of snow on the ground.

But Melt is a different story.  Melt is the warm sun during the day and hearing the crash of the icicles in the late afternoon.  After a few days of melt, these are all gone now.

However, at sunset, the ground proves its power and within a couple short hours, black ice replaces the wet shallow puddles.  Given the ground has spent months below freezing, one whimsical sunny afternoon is not going to break its freezing hold.

Our snow banks are much the same.  During the month of February, we would sink up to our thighs if we walked on the snow banks.  Now, with the Melt, the snowbanks are solid.  The sound of the van bumping the snow banks while making three-point turns in our driveway used to be a gentle “sploosh.” Now it’s more of hard crunch that leaves me wondering if it was a tail light or snow bank that gave way.

On ice, sensible shoes are only those that might have spikes on the bottom.  I ventured out to my book club last night in shoes with rubber soles.  I might as well have been wearing skis.  The driveway to the hostess’ house looked clear.  I parked near the back door and opened my van door into a snow bank.  I wobbled between the bank and my van, leaning on the van  like a crutch.  A little of the sand and salt encrusting the van would undoubtedly land on my clothes.

At the end of the evening, two hours later, five of us exited the same back door and gingerly made our way toward our cars.  “We are using your van to balance, Linda!”  I replied, “Sorry about the dirt!” as I rounded the front of my van.  Then it hit.  Or rather I hit it: the black ice.  I waddled over it and placed a foot onto the sloping snow bank for surer footing.  I slipped and yipped.  “Are you OK, Linda?”  Yes.  I continued dancing on the iced-over snow bank until the maneuver landed me spread eagle against the driver’s door.  I had made it.  Only my back was against the door that I needed to open.

I stood still, except for the belly laugh that was shaking my core.  As I steadied myself, I heard the other women crunching their way around their car.  I immediately recognized the sound that interrupted the steady crunch.   “Splooonch!”  A slow slide down the side of a frozen snow bank.  Steadying myself against the door, I turned my head to the left and saw Samantha’s silhouette sitting against the snow bank.  She was facing the driver’s door of her car.  “Are you OK, Samantha?”  Without hesitation, Samantha replied, “Yes, I’m fine.”  The tone was of ice exasperation.

I flailed out and away and spun to grab the handle of my van door.  My body quaked with the hilarity of it all.  We were living a fast action, slapstick video.  Safely but not gracefully, I landed behind the wheel and let one of those uncontrollable laughs fully live its life.

The women in my book club are gracious and graceful.  And now, wet and dirty from my van and from snow banks that look like this in the daylight.

We are hardy New Englanders.

(This winter is Defying Logic!)

Bill's Ski Goggles

Skiing. Less than an hour from our house we can ski hills. Under two hours we can ski foothills. Over two hours we can ski mountains. For you New Englanders reading, this is not scientific measurement, just a Midwesterner’s flat wisdom of a few slopes. We are under two hours away from Crotched Mountain – which we all agree was a very unfortunate name. We are pronouncing it Crotch-ED Mountain. An expiring timeshare led to a quickly planned weekend ski trip where accommodation space was available.

With a still tender back and little confidence, I held down the fort in the cafeteria as Bill skied alternately with Will and Liam all weekend. Will has become an adventurous skier with little fear of falls and with lofty goals of skiing all the runs on every mountain. As Bill said, “Thank goodness there are no double-blacks at Crotch-ED Mountain.” When Will came back Sunday morning and gave the low-down on the terrain park jumps he landed, I looked wide-eyed, questioningly at Bill. “No, I didn’t do them; my body can’t take that any more.”

After lunch on Sunday, it was Liam’s turn to ski with Dad. Being a visual person, Liam starts at Point A (the top) and skis to Point B (the bottom). Horribly tough to watch for me, he points the skis downhill and takes off like a terror, edging the skis to a slice of pizza only to stop at the bottom. Bill tried to point out the virtues of taking longer swoops around curves, but Liam successfully skied his path, so why would he do it any differently?

Liam and Bill gathered their equipment and headed out, leaving Will and I to the art of cutting out intricate paper snowflakes and playing Set. An hour later, Bill brought Liam back to swap skiers. Looking straight at me, a red-cheeked Bill says, “Are my goggles here?” Crumbs, I (equipment girl) may have swept them onto a chair before lunch. I rummage through the bag and find nothing. I look back to Bill and in his silhouette I see his goggles on his helmet. More specifically, backwards on his helmet so the lenses are looking behind him.

With a question in my voice, I say, “They are on your helmet…?” “But I asked Liam and he said they weren’t there.” Liam had been looking at Bill’s face when he answered, and the black goggle strap blended seamlessly with the black helmet. The back of the black helmet.

We now know that Bill’s helmet is – apparently – completely reversible.

Rhododendron Droop

This morning, before going to to check the day’s forecast, I checked the vista from my dining room windows.  The massive rhododendron growing against the house is our privacy screen, protecting the room from drivers’ gazes as they zip down the hill.  Sprawling out eight feet and up ten feet, she is my crown jewel.  Landscapers want to give her a good trim, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt that big ball of green that erupts in purply-pink blossoms around Mother’s Day.

Today what I see is the Rhododendron Droop, and I know it’s below freezing.  Her leaves curl in on themselves and hang frigidly, yet the blossoms awaiting spring stand stoically, tightly clenched in the cold.  How can she withstand days like this and bloom majestically in a few months?

The Rhododendron Droop means bundling up when I go out and appreciating the warmth when I come in. The Rhododendron Droop reminds me to take a few moments to be still, mindful of the day and what I will do. Knowing in stillness there is strength.

 (Eager for spring? Check out English Garden Inspiration.) 

March Haiku

Are you up for haiku-ing? A little mental shake-up? An unusual exercise for the brain? This picture made me want to write a haiku. I haven't done that since middle school. In case you need a brush-up, haikus are 17 syllables long, written in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

Check out my haiku below the picture. If you come up with a haiku for this picture, add it as a comment under the same picture here on my Facebook page.

Go ahead... try it!

March morning glistens.
Winter sits on warm branches.
Spring night... winter gone.