Walking out in the field recently has meant crushing the ice-covered grass stalks. I kept feeling like I was killing it, the fragile stems breaking under my boots. But now we have snow! It feels like we have had a hundred days of gray skies and damp air and chilliness. Dreary. Usually I take whatever weather comes. Complaining about the weather is a bit annoying, I have to admit. Why grumble about something that can’t be changed? I have been a bit more sympathetic lately, however. All that gloominess.
However, this past week has brought snow. It snowed heavily for a while–that beautiful white stuff falling to cover the brown and gray. It makes everything lighter. Even at night the world is brighter. Our boots don’t smash the grass but plow through the snow instead. It feels gentler, softer, quieter. The world around us is covered in beauty. The bareness of winter has its own beauty, for sure, but this is magical.
I have been thinking lately of what to plant in our garden. Now it is covered in snow so it will be a while before I can turn the dirt and sink in some seeds. But January is the time to dream of spring. Rosemary and thyme still grow in that cold soil. Last night I had to dig through snow to cut some thyme springs. Hard to believe it is still green. It made a difference to dinner. I managed to plant garlic in the fall and that sleeps, waiting for warmth. And there are all those empty beds to imagine full of plants–tomatoes and carrots and pumpkins and potatoes. What new varieties can I try? It is about time to order some seeds.
The trees are covered in snow. It falls now with more on the way tonight. It does not have to be much. A dusting is enough. Maybe fairy dust is really just snow. The Snow Buntings came back last week. They have been flying around the fields, although they have yet to discover the seed I keep leaving on the ground for them outside our windows. They are like fairies they way they float and appear from nowhere. Snow I tell you–magical stuff.
It was way too mild for a while. Warm, no snow. Even rainy for several days. That is pretty lame when it comes to winter. Last week I drove to Rhode Island for a couple days. Of course it snowed then. It was not a full-on storm but it made for some slow going. Then it cleared and snowed for me again on the way home. When I got to Bolton on I-89, close enough to home to think I would be there soon, traffic slowed, then stopped. Car off the road? Some slipping and sliding? Hard to tell as it was too far beyond the long line of cars ahead. And so I waited. And kept waiting. We all inched forward a few times but mostly just sat there. A few people got out and walked around. One guy stood on his roof to try to see what was ahead. Another guy walked down the hill to take a leak.
A flatbed came up from behind and so everyone pulled to the side to let it pass. Then another came, led by a state trooper. And we waited. I have no idea how long I was there. I did get out to stretch once. Luckily I had gotten gas and some coffee back in Barre, so I was pretty set. Eventually we did get moving and I finally passed a pickup getting pulled onto one of those flatbeds. The thing was completely burnt–fire ate it right up. Another car was on the other flatbed, front end all smooshified. I found out later that no one was hurt. That could have been bad.
The weather has been seasonal since then. Yesterday and today were cold and windy, like way windy. I went to the lake both days to look for wintering ducks. There was surf at the Charlotte Beach and again today at Chimney Point, waves crashing on the shore and throwing spray. It was hard to stay out long. I was bundled but that wind sucks the heat away right quick. Taking a walk close to home was bitter too. It felt good to get out there and move but good lord that wind tugged at the cheeks. We had snow flurries most of today. More are on the way.
We may get a storm later in the week. I’ll take it. While we have a couple inches of snow on the ground, drifted in spots and bare in others, I would love to see the ground covered. Can’t beat some quality snow in January. The Snow Buntings might appreciate it. They came back today. This is about when they arrived the past two years. We watched them swirl in a flock over the field and loop around to the neighbor’s fields, little white fluffs of fluttering. I spread some seed on the ground to let them know they are welcome. I am sure they will find it, hopefully in time for the storm.
I don’t plan to travel too far this week, so my chances of getting stopped on the interstate are slim. If we get a big old dump of snow, I won’t mind working from home. I need to stay safe, and it is easier to watch the snow fall from my home office, not to mention the Snow Buntings.
Yesterday I participated in Vermont’s annual Bald Eagle survey, as I have for several years now. My route is the Winooski River, from Waterbury to Lake Champlain. I drive along the river, stopping at several spots to watch carefully, and watch less carefully as I drive from point to point. I did see one eagle, in Williston, and otherwise had a day of it watching a beautiful river that gets forgotten or taken for granted or often just not thought about.
The day was warm, relatively, just above freezing. In some past years I have done the survey with temperatures below zero. There was no ice at all yesterday, although there was fresh snow in the hills. The water was high and powered over the dams and ledges, less tame than last year. Here is my most recent portrait of the river.
In the dark days of November we set up a Christmas tree. Our family tradition has been to take a trek on the day after Thanksgiving to cut one from a local family who sells them. There was not much snow when we got there, just some patches in the shaded spots, but we were in the spirit nonetheless. We have a fairly tall ceiling but the one we found was much shorter. It seemed just right, however, so we made quick work with the saw and carried it to pop onto the roof rack.
While the rest of them tied the tree to the car, I walked to the front door. The field of trees spreads out behind the house and they had a small table set up on the shallow porch. They had a few wreaths for sale and a sign that offered maple syrup. Since Covid they have had a metal cash box to make payments, on the honor system. They turned a porch window into a payment window and I waved them down inside. We have been buying maple syrup from them and was hoping to do that again. I then noticed the hand-written sign that said this would be their last year.
The couple who sells the trees is ready to retire and even though they sell the trees just a couple months of the year, it is a lot of work. I thanked them for so many years of Christmas trees and the joy they have brought our family. Our kids had been coming there since they were small and many a tree from there has filled our house with green and light over the dark months. It was a bit sad, having shared this small part of our lives with these neighbors for so many years, knowing it was coming to an end, but I am a big believer in the opportunity that change brings. Our kids have passed the threshold into adulthood so our world is changing anyway. This is one more small piece of it.
Today is the last day for this tree in our house. It is time to remove the ornaments we have collected over the years and pack them into boxes until November. Taking the Christmas tree down is symbolic of the transition to a new year. Lots of things will be new this year and I hope most of them are positive. I can’t help but be optimistic. At this point it is a habit. Happy New Year. Here’s to good things to come in 2023. There are reasons to be pessimistic, I know, but I will take the positive wherever I can find it.