Jersey snowstorms are weirdly torturous. Even when we get quite a lot of snow, it’s rarely the sort of dry, fluffy stuff that brushes away easily. Our snowfall, while generally not exactly voluminous, is more often than not wet, sticky, and incredibly hard to shovel. This due to the fact that it weighs a ton. This is if we are lucky.
If we are not so lucky, we get the sort of snowstorm that we had this past Saturday. It started much later than any predictions had suggested, but the one prediction that was true was that it would switch over to a “wintery mix”. This is a vague euphemism for an ice storm. I thought this one was pretty impressive.
For many, this is a difficult time of year, and there seem to be any number of reasons to grumble. Advertisements all over the place suggest extravagant gifts of every kind. Despite this, the economy remains tight. There are more homeless children in New York City than at any time since the Great Depression. It’s easy to be bitter. I’m in the same boat in many ways. Illness, job loss, and an assortment of challenges are making it difficult. Santa is pretty much bankrupt this year. And yet…
I let the dog out in the balmy twenty-degree weather at the crack of dawn, the morning after our “wintery mix” arrived. This of course was only after she had repeatedly jumped on the bed (where she is not technically supposed to be). She proceeded to stomp all over me while insistently sticking her nose into any part of my face she could get to. I was compelled to get out of bed.
Letting the dog out was pretty funny in the end. She tends to fly out the door once I give the okay. This time, she nearly killed herself, being entirely unprepared for the solid sheet of ice crusted over the snow. She slid down the stairs like an otter. She then managed to get all four paws going in different directions, until she was checked by the length of her leash. If you remember the scene in Bambi when he first discovers the frozen pond, that’s what this brought to mind. Trying to hold still so she could manage the pee she’d been waiting for all night was even funnier as her paws kept slowly sliding sideways beneath her. Her nails just couldn’t get hold.
Later, she spent at least an hour digging up the snow while she tracked an unknown something beneath the ice. I’ve never seen her so determined or so single minded. I’ve never seen her dig at all. There was no distracting her from her pursuit. Several times, she managed to stick her entire head beneath the ice sheet pushing until it cracked. All the while, she scrabbled fiercely.
As it turned out we had at least a quarter inch of ice . This explains why twenty two pounds of dog was not enough to break the surface, and probably why her nails couldn’t sink in either. That ice was the topping on top of a few inches of ankle deep snow. Ankle deep, not so impressive. Instant ice skating in the back yard, a bit more entertaining. Shovelling out is another story. This requires some fairly back breaking labor. The ice needs breaking up before a snowblower is much use. That assumes we have one, which we don’t. A bit of irony as each winter we contemplate getting one. Then we decide that last winter wasn’t really so bad and we don’t really need it anyway. By March, we usually regret this. Given the amount of grumbling going on, we may regret it sooner. Seemed like everyone found a reason to be crabby about the weather.
In spite of it all, I find myself feeling more content than I have in many, many years. I didn’t even realize it until late Sunday night. I had to go out, and not for a fun reason. A friend had a sick child and needed help in the form of someone to stay with her older one rather than drag both to the ER. As I drove the back country roads around my town, the full moon came out to put on a show. Just as my yard had been, the fields were coated in ice. It made for a scene of undulating waves of not just white, but of many shades from blue to silver and even gold where shadows stood in sharp relief.
With that I knew that all that mattered was appreciating the gifts I already had, rather than the ones I couldn’t obtain this year. I have beauty all around, if I only take a moment to look: branches tinseled with ice, smooth snow on pristine fields, ice frisbees and ice “shields” with which to defend against marauding snow balls, snowballs that pack perfectly due to their soggy nature, family to help shovel, and a warm fire to ease the chill when the work it done.
The greatest gift is to look within, to find contentment, and to bloom–even in a storm–where you’re planted. So to quote Charles Dickens and his character Tiny Tim: this year God bless us, every one, with the true and indelible gift of peace.