Living in Western New York, I am around the snow and cold of winter longer than I would like. However, I have learned to accept and even befriend winter, because it is stronger, hardier and more insistent than I am.
Winter’s beauty sneaks up on you. One of my favorite things to do is watch the snow cascade outside my living room picture window during an evening storm. Winter is definitely the winner in this war between the elements. Before the storm has really picked up speed, the flakes slowly pile up on my driveway, one by one. The outdoor spotlights, intended to illuminate intruders on my property, make the flakes shimmer in the moonlight as they fall. They don’t seem as ominous when they pile up neatly on the tips of pine trees and bushes.
When the velocity of the wind increases and the storm gains more power, I am reminded how fortunate I am to be behind the glass and merely a spectator, not an involved party. The wind blows in the background like a carnival pipe organ, pausing on one note for just a moment, before it resumes its ancient aria, blowing in and out between the tree branches. An owl or two will hoot along, as if they know they are part of a grand orchestra and must play their part in the piece. Twigs slap against window glass, adding a constant rhythm to the already chaotic symphony, trying to keep time with the ever constant wind. I go to sleep listening to these beautiful instruments of the backyard, knowing that I am warm and safe inside in my bed.
In the early morning I can picture in my mind’s eye the snow glistening in the sunrise, washed in the glow of the sunshine and flickers as the light hits it intermittently. Before the velvety blanket is rumpled with the imprint of footsteps, the crystals glitter like mini firecracker exploding, silently. It is quiet and the earth is not awake yet. A squirrel or two may quickly hop across a mound, as if the ground were too hot to linger on for more than a second.
The sky is clear and bright blue, so bright one can’t look directly into it. The wind is barely moving now, yet when a stray flake blows up again my window glass, I raise my hand as if to stop it from coming any closer.
But alas, I have been fooled again! Now that I am up and out of bed, I look out the window and view what destruction has been wrought by this sneaky and sinister centurion of the night. Beguiling and seductive in the evening, he shows his true colors this morning in the damage he has left behind.
Snow is piled high on picnic tables and cars. Ice blown from the wind has formed on window ledges, and on electric wires and phone lines. Sidewalks are buried beneath mountains of snow, leaving me stranded and afraid. There is no heat in the house now, as I make my way barefoot to view the thermostat that reads 40 degrees. I will have to be content to stack my fireplace with logs from the basement and stay indoors for the rest of the morning, catnapping as I can not find anything good to read.
When I awake, it is twilight, almost night again. The need to sleep must have overpowered my bad mood. The fire has long gone out as evidenced by the ashes in the fireplace, but it is warm. The heat must have kicked on sometime during the afternoon. My stomach growls, reminding me that I haven’t eaten all day.
Stumbling to the kitchen, I am greeted by a new view, a different view than the living room picture window offers. I arrive just to glimpse the tail of a black dog running by, leaving only the steam from his nostrils as his hot breathes puffs behind him, like a locomotive steam engine. The dog is chasing a squirrel, who now has no trouble at all jumping from mound to mound and up the bark of a tree. My eyes are drawn upward to the magnificent overcoat of slow hanging from the branches of the beautiful oak, bending it, but not overpowering it. I am reminded once again, that winter is the boss, and I am but an obedient servant, awaiting my next instruction, my next lesson in appreciating the power of winter.