Playing with Snow

Today starts clear and achingly beautiful but crisply cold to remind us it ain’t spring yet. Glittering snow reflects in solar panels working overtime. With March, January came and then a big snow and we continued to play winter games. But tomorrow it clouds over and spring starts with mixed precips and mixed weather reports. I hate to admit it, but it looks like this year we’re not going to have one of those epic melts in which all of the snow and ice takes off to parts unknown in a couple of days. Maybe this last snow will slowly sink into the soil as a late winter bonus.

I’m done with snow. It’s time for it to go away. And since it wouldn’t melt, I gave it some color in today’s images. In another attempt to get rid of it,  below I post a piece I wrote eighteen years ago today on the occasion of a truly epic melt. May we have one next year.

Socked In
Plainfield, March 23, 2000, 12:30 pm

Earl the weather god is with me. Here it is lunch time, the requisite five exams corrected, and rain just stopped. Time for a walk. Incredible freshness outside. Green. No, not quite green, but green coming on, coming on hard. Still, fresh green breast of the new world. Down Bluff Street the rain has washed away the last bits of ice in the ruts and with it the dust left after snow melting. It even sounds fresh, I think. It sounds fresh?

Water a palpable presence, smell, feel, noise of water everywhere,  running down the gully next to the road, dripping down from the trees with the slightest gust of clearing air. It floods me.

Down Bluff Street, louder and louder, water rushing, rippling, slipping over small obstructions, swishing past stacks of backed-up leaves. Crouching, I poke to free leaves here and there, freeing the water also. Waterworks in reverse ever since when. At the corner of Summit rushing, quick, quick, through the pipe under the street with a great gurgling. Pooh sticks? 

Perhaps Vining Street is passable again down to West Hill Road? (Yes, said Arvilla, it’s Vining, like it is written on the sign at the bottom, not Bluff as on the authentic looking one wooden one at the top, here at Summit. Dueling street names. Don’t remove the sign, no one lives there anyway.) Going down that way,  my summer route, would be a nice clean relief from the daily-seeming new cheese popcorn bag on Summit, from the eternal Marlboro packs and Budweiser cans and redolent McDonalds trash that lines Prospect on my winter daily round. Enough garbage police already. Boots are us, let’s go.

Gurgling, GURGLING, rushing, tinkling, murmuring. What are the sounds water makes? How do I transliterate them? Definitely with gerunds: sliding, jumping, swooshing, blooping, gushing. Perhaps I should have gone back with to record — forget writing. Suburban friends have a little Japanese fountain, water rushing on stones, in their bedroom for quiet. That’s what this is like. Waterfall relaxation tape, rushing brook to take your cares away, gurgle, swoosh.

I walk down the hill, my boots, too, mooching and slurping in the mud here and there, sliding, cracking the last ice. Dog splashing puddles, lapping. There’s a pattern. With every steepness, I get a small swishing, tinkling stream beside me, but as I approach the bottom — did you notice I am walking down the hill in the grand scheme of things? — a stream comes rushing and gushing in from the right, drinks up my roadside tinkler,  gurgles and blurbs its way under the road, and swooshes on its way down the hill.

Falling water taking my breath and me, rather, giving me to me because I am so much in hearing, sensing. Where’s Annie Dillard when you need her for words to write down feeling thoughts? I become an ear. Where’s Emerson — no, it’d be of course Thoreau stuck at this passing of water under the road, drinking drinking, drinking in the sounds until he drowned, almost. Drownded, almost. But he, too would think of the river the water will become, the river dammed,  damned.

I’d be skipping down Vining but for the sucking mud, one foot wet (oops), jumping the stream flowing — yes, finally flowing here at the bottom — across this once a road . Bluff it should be, then,  really. Pretense to street-ness in a name. Here at the top of Seelye’s field I turn in to take a look at Plainfield on the opposite hill, dressed impeccably in white clapboard and church tower,  roads leading to. Clearing up, ribbons of fog rise out of the trees — what Kin Cullen so loved as the little colors of Spring and said each year — maples red with bud, trunks black and wet — sharply drawn on that hill, New Englandly. Water down the face.

But I want to finish down  — this first time this year, down to West Hill, cross the street, touch the other side with one foot, turn around and whistle the dog. Starting back up, then, drizzle comes just as I shed my jacket for the sweat anticipated of the climb. Rain? Fog? I turn in once more at the field to see Ethan Frome’s town disappear, socked in. Thus, walking home in the clouds altogether. It starts to pour truly, and sweat and the one wet muddy foot are of the least concern, dripping in my neck and eyes down from hair. Sometimes you get to be so happy it hurts.

2 thoughts on “Playing with Snow

  1. What a beautiful revisitation. It’s fascinating to see an 18-year leap in your prose style, too, having so recently analyzed it to death. I like the matured (and freer) voice of now better, but I like all its history and evolution at once best!

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