“So what do you think of our weather here?” my dairy farming friend asks with a sly smile at the afternoon elementary school pickup in the middle of last week.
“Just wait til you have to get out and feed the animals.” He was shoveling snow until 11:30 the night before and up at four for milking. My sparkling eyes must seem naïve and amusing to him.
Leaving the school in his snowpants, Sam can’t resist repeatedly flopping into the blanket of snow, unmarked by other feet, which mostly stick to clear paths. If I’d worn snowpants, I’d probably join him, just to feel it.
I feel notably less romantic about snow, though, while driving our 1993 Toyota Camry out to the farm that evening. I nearly don’t make it up the hill on Little York Road. As we creep upward, slipping, I tell Andrew we should just turn around while we’re not in a ditch. But his determination to keep going, plus my realization that turning around isn’t a real possibility, holds me on course.
Both hands on the wheel, I exclaim how beautiful, each bare tree branch outlined, snow falling storybook-style in the dusk. The evergreens kneel, laden with snow like armloads of gifts. After we crest that hill, Andrew points past my nose, at my window. A ruffed grouse steps through the trees on a slope just above the road. Against the snow, its woodland camouflage looks bold. Intricate brown and black patterns swirl down its sides. I can see its spiky mohawk of feathers and the white outlining its eye.
Andrew coaches me into keeping momentum, so I swing into the next right turn and it carries me up the hill even though the car weaves like a kid learning to ride a bicycle. We pass the windswept spot between two open fields. We turn onto Red Barn Road, cresting a slope. Home lies below us.
For a few more days, though, it is home to these college students, and we pull out shovels and 150 pounds of traction sand, just in case. We shovel. On the dark, snowy drive back to our apartment, Sam wonders what all those lines are, coming at our windshield.
The next day, I stand in light snow with a friend after we drop off our preschoolers. Each snowflake lingers in her red hair, perfectly snowflake-shaped, like sprinkle decorations on a cupcake, but fading into clear droplets.
I had forgotten about snow. It offers us reprieve, changing the scenery without requiring travel. We arrived in emerald summer, began our life here through the fire of fall, and now the eye rests. The junk wears a silver-white shroud. The hidden grouse leaps into view.
Winter here will be long and gritty. Locals seem to have the chinset of survivors, having passed through the grey tunnel of January, February, March, even into April. We are the uninitiated. We can come fresh to the shovels. We haven’t yet landed in the ditch. We can fling ourselves down and watch each snowflake melt in each others’ hair.