Saturday, March 5, 2011

Snowbound in Birdland

This morning in Birdland the sun is trying to burn a hole through a shifting layer of clouds. It is a silver-black shining disc, and the winds shape the drifts into the spines of cold brontosauruses, a whole herd of them sleeping in the fields with their heads toward the Southeast. We are snowed in. It started yesterday, gently enough, and I began to doubt the reports, but by noon the snow came in earnest. I had just left my desk to make a cup of tea and start a load of laundry when the power flickered, and then went out.

I called Aunt Jane and Aunt Kate down the lane to see if they had a fire going. I convinced them to come down to my house, which is much easier to heat with a wood stove, if the power didn’t return soon. By the time I hung up the phone and walked to the window, the wind had already picked up, sleet was furiously hitting the glass, and the drifting had begun. I called them back and said I’d better pick them up now, or there would be no getting down the lane until Jim and Sean came after the storm to dig us out. They agreed, and I started the car and began scraping the ice that was already half an inch thick on the windshield.

The snow came down in tiny, stinging bites, and blew across the lane where drifts were already beginning to gather.

The wind blew so fiercely, and from an unusual direction—Northeast—rendering my snow fence useless for keeping the lane clear. I pulled the car as close to my aunts’ house as I could, and we helped Maggie, their Great Pyrenees into the back seat. By the time we were all loaded, my tire ruts were already filling. Clearly, we made the trip in the nick of time. Back at home, we sent Ellis, my fourteen-year-old, to the woodpile. He pushed the wheelbarrow through the snow, then brought the whole thing into the house. He’s resourceful when it comes to keeping warm, as long as it doesn’t involve wearing a heavy winter coat. Or mittens. Then we all scurried around preparing for a long night. Ellis filled pitchers of water until the pipes were drained. In Birdland, no electricity means no running water. We drain the pipes while we can so we have something to drink for the duration of the storm, and so the full pipes won’t freeze. It was about 2 pm when we lost power, and already the house was beginning to cool. The heavy clouds and blowing snow obscured the sun, so it was already a little dark even in the mid-afternoon. We hung a flannel comforter over the doorway to the dining room to concentrate the heat from the stove. We pulled in the sofa bed, and I went around the house gathering blankets and quilts and pillows and candles. The dogs were a bit of a problem. Ursula was happy to welcome a guest, but old Isis wasn’t so sure. Some snapping and warning growls convinced us to try to give Maggie her space. Maggie wouldn’t go further than a few feet from Aunt Jane, so Isis went to the cold side of the house where she was very comfortable in her soft winter coat.

Once we got settled, I pulled some butter bean soup from the fridge, and set it to warm on the stovetop. We amused ourselves with a board game about gardening, which reminded us that we woke that morning to overcast skies on groundhog day, so spring was not far off. We ate our soup, but left the dishes. Aunt Jane told stories and reviewed genealogies by candlelight, but we went to bed early.

I woke to dogs’ barking and ran to the living room to let Ursula out. I thought it was morning, but the power had snapped back on, the lights waking the dogs. It was only about 1 AM, so I had to coax Ursula back inside, and run around turning off the lights and music, quieting the house. By then the wind had stilled. We must have been in the eye of the storm, because the cloud cover was gone and moonlight reflected off the bright snow. Crystals clung to branches, softening them like Bullwinkle’s antlers. All that would be gone with the morning winds.

With the power back on, we could do dishes, play wii bowling, listen to the radio, finish the laundry, but we were still snowbound until Sean came with the tractor to plow us out. How lucky we are for the kindness of neighbors.

Warm in Beauty; Maintain Peace; Blessed Be.

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