March 2, 2012 § 3 Comments
Finally, it feels like winter: Two storms in the past week have transformed the landscape. What was crust and scratch is now fluff and hush and despite it being colder than we’ve become accustomed to this winter, it feels warmer. Not physically warmer, but somehow emotionally warmer, as if after being set on edge by the atypical conditions, we can finally relax. I’d thought I was ready for the season to be over, but the snow reminds me of how much I missed “real” winter.
The eve of the second storm, two nights ago, Rye and I slept out in the debris shelter he made with his friend and mentor, Erik. We skied down through the woods just as the light was going glowery and the snow was beginning to filter down in widely-spaced flakes. We built a fire of birch bark and deadfall, skied a little more, and then snuggled in to sleep through the storm. I slept especially soundly, as I always do outdoors, and when we awoke in the morning, everything was soft and white and I felt more energized that I had in weeks.
The snow adds to our daily chores, but this winter has been so dry, it feels like a novelty. There is the driveway to be plowed, which is great fun. Slightly less entertaining are are solar panels that must be swept clear, so they might harvest every precious electron. The batteries that store our modest supply of electricity are terminally ill and desperately needing replacement; this is a $3500 proposition, so of course we have been procrastinating mightily. Still, it’s been good for us, forcing us to an even deeper level of awareness regarding our electricity use and generation. The briefest moment of sunshine shall not be wasted; not even a single 20-watt lightbulb can remain lit for longer than is absolutely necessary. Soon enough, it will be summer, and we can go back to our wastrel ways. You know, using three and even four kilowatt hours per day.
Still, no matter how winter-like the next month or two prove to be, the fact remains: This winter has been a fleeting, fickle thing. I know well enough that complaining about weather is both fruitless and tiresome; I have little patience for it, particularly in the hills of rural Vermont. I mean, if it’s consistent weather you want, why not just get the hell out? On the other hand, weather is an historical medium for chitchat and connection, and I’m reminded of this almost every time I stop by one of our neighbors’. It is weather that so often sparks the conversation, and while there is rarely overt complaining (these are native Vermonters, after all: They know the score), it is generally understood that the subject is to be raised only when conditions are less than optimal: Rain during first cut, warm nights during sugaring, a killing frost in May.
It is somehow comforting to me that so many in my community are so tangibly dependent on the weather for their livelihood. It is a reminder that no matter how much it might seem otherwise, we are inextricably linked to nature. We are not separate, and we never will be. To deny this truth is to deny no less than a piece of ourselves.