The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a hemlock tree,
Has given my heart a change of mood, and saved some part of a day Id rued.
- Robert Frost
All it takes to make a former New Englander smile is to cover the ground with a blanket of snow. So when heavy flakes began falling a few nights ago, I knew Id be up earlier the next morning than children on Christmas Day, and Id remember .
Soft, white, incredibly beautiful scenes of Northern winters; the magic, equalizing effect of a snow-covered landscape; and the exhilaration that comes with cold temperatures.
Jewel-studded hillsides glistening in the morning sun; blue-gray smoke curling upward from row upon row of warm houses; and cloudless, after-the-storm skies blessing the reawakened earth.
Foot-long icicles clinging to the eaves; man-sized snowdrifts lining whitened streets; and puffy snowsuits silhouetting children to twice their normal size.
Children, gobs of children, carrying sleds, skis, and skates toward hills and frozen ponds to expend their energy on the elements; parents, gobs of parents, pulling little ones on sleds, or helping transform massive snowballs into forts, sculptures, or the perennial snowman.
I know, memories can be selective, or maybe Ive just chosen to forget icy roads, frozen pipes, sub-zero temperatures and going to school on Saturdays to make up for days lost during the storm. But, incredible as it sounds, theres a positive side to a good, old-fashioned, northern blizzard - or even three, unexpected inches of paralyzing, Southern snow. Of the former, my memory is very clear.
From 24 hours to a week each year, time stood still. Accustomed to the interruption, we knew how to stay warm, well-fed and entertained. Schools and businesses closed, and families spent unscheduled time together.
Books, games, and jigsaw puzzles came down from the shelves. Special treats - popcorn, home-canned jams and fruit, marshmallow-topped hot chocolate and, sometimes, snow cream made from bowls of fresh snow - supplemented mealtime.
When the storm passed, we put on layers of clothing and went outside to shovel our own walks and driveways, and help the neighbors with theirs. Everyone smiled, pooled supplies, and offered assistance for any emergency or need.
Then came the good-natured snowball fights, the winter sports, plopping spread-eagled on the ground to make angels in the untrampled snow, and returning home to warm our feet on lowered oven doors before climbing into quilt-covered beds to sleep more soundly than babies. As Archie and Edith would say, Those were the days.
Even with the inconvenience and the occasional mishap, as natural catastrophes go, Ill take a blizzard over anything else, because everyone needs a slowdown - especially an unplanned slowdown - once in a while. Hurricanes are sudden and unpredictable. Fires and floods destroy property and take lives. Blizzards can be hazardous, too, but their potential for good is far greater than with other storms and things.
Georgias White New Year of 2002 wont make the Guinness Book of World Records.
Traces of the white stuff linger for a few days, tightly packed snowmen a bit longer - not like the Storm of 88, seasoned residents say - and disappear for another year or 10.
No, no bragging rights at all, but as one young snowman-builder exclaimed, It was so exciting.
That it was, for out-of-schoolers, transplanted New Englanders, and even Southerners who willingly exchanged their normal, warmer clime for a few, memory-making days when the barren ground turned to white-washed splendor and time stood still.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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