We watched the Weather Channel predict the winter storm's arrival. Before the flakes began to fall, I filled the bird feeders to the top, put lots of peanuts in the munch-box which is on our back porch, and came indoors to wait. Before bedtime I turned on the porch light to watch the snow come tumbling down. It was beautiful, full of diamonds in the light. Swirling gusts of snow intermingled with rain-like downfall, which gave the eye a lot of weather to enjoy through the window.
Inside, wood was piled by the woodstove, and we stayed warm in long johns, warm socks and turtlenecks. Just before going to bed, I filled a few pans with water in case the power went out overnight in the storm. We never know what combination of factors will cut off our electricity, so it's best to be prepared. Then off to bed, with visions of huge new snowbanks in our heads.
What came down
This morning we got to see how much snow had already fallen. Up to a foot had been predicted, and since recent snow forecasts had been off-base, we just didn't know what to expect. Out back the apple trees were full of blue jays, at least 16, by my count. All that fresh whiteness was decorated with their shocking bright blue feathers, and the hopping from branch to branch that brought them to our line of sight.
About 6 inches of fresh snow covered the ground, the deck, the trees and the driveway. And it was lovely. Gray squirrels had already marked the deck with their footprints and body prints. We could see mounds, like moguls, that their bodies had created along their hopping path to the feeders. The blue jays likewise dropped into the lumpy paths, looking for fallen seeds. They use their beaks like windshield wipers, brushing the snow from the deck rail, or from the buried peanuts the squirrels had just deposited.
Going into winter space
So, like many Adirondackers this morning, I got myself ready to engage with this fresh snowy world up close. Again, long johns, warm socks, several layers of undershirts, sweatshirts, scarf, wool hat, mittens -?like an astronaut preparing for a space walk, I was ready to enter "winter space" instead of outer space.
First swipe of the snow with the shovel told me what I needed to know, which was, how heavy was this snowfall? Answer: medium heavy. This was no feathery, lightweight snow, nor was it back-breaking, heavier-than-bearable snow. It was movable and liftable, so I proceeded to push it off the deck. Then when I had piles to move, I carefully lifted shovelful after shovelful and tossed it over the bank. I wanted to bring my outdoor room back to usefulness, and this was how to do that this lovely post-storm morning.
The gray squirrels, three of them, sat in the trees waiting for me to finish. I refilled their nut box with peanuts, put some seeds on the railing for the finches, then stomped the snow off my feet before heading back inside.
We are not alone
As I did so, I thought of all the others who were likely outside or soon to be outside, doing much of what I've described here: dressing in layers, shoveling fresh fallen snow, enjoying the blue jays in nearby trees. It is one of the pieces of being a true Adirondacker: we are not being fearful of the snow, and we know what to do when it comes.
We who live here have a lot in common with folks who live in other northern areas, and other mountain areas. We are a hearty and hardy crew. We live in places where there are four distinct seasons, winter being dominant. We all know about advantages of studded snow tires, a good highway department and the necessity of layering our clothes during the dark time. We have snow brushes in our cars, snow shovels by our doors and a coat rack with multiple layers there for the taking. We all know about warm footwear, warm head coverings, and the plusses and minuses of gloves and mittens. It's a northern winter culture that unites us. And a strong inner knowledge that after the solstice, days will begin to add daylight, minute by minute, until next June. So whether or not we live in Paul Smiths, Newcomb, St. Paul or Park City, we know some important parts of how to manage during this snowy and beautiful time of year.
Happy solstice one and all. And on our way there, why not take time to enjoy the shoveling that this season offers us for fresh air and exercise. It's how we make our way through these winter days of soft snows and rosy cheeks. Winter solstice this year is on December 21, at 1:11 in the afternoon. Only then we will begin to take our daylight back! Stay warm, Enterprise readers, and enjoy the free gifts from Mother Nature this holiday season. Ho, ho, ho!
Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.