The View from Mary's Farm for January 2007
January 1, 1970Friends,
Again, my apologies for your receiving two of these communications in one month. I have no idea how these things can happen. With computers, I always say, when things go well, it's a miracle, but when they don't, it's beyond comprehension. The server I use for this website has taken all responsibility for the troubles and promises smooth sailing from now on. Let's hope.
Since Yankee is now only sending out six issues a year, I will be, as promised, sending you essays more frequently for the months that we skip in the magazine. So expect another in about a month's time.
It's finally cold here, five below this morning, which is not exactly welcome but at least it feels more normal. Strangely, the winter I am writing about in the following essay was last year, not this year, but so far, it's been, if anything, even milder and sadly snowless. The ice storm we've just experienced almost brought us a power outage such as the one I describe below. Many people are still without power as I write this, but we were (thankfully) spared. What I'm hoping for is a good old blizzard, any day now. I hope all of you are warm and comfortable, wherever you may be. And I send you all good wishes with this message.
The Winter of a Thousand Springs
Winter brings with it an apprehension, a raised expectation. We consult the almanacs and listen to the prognosticators. Never mind that they are often wrong. We always want to know what to expect, hope we are ready. In general, we expect snow. And plenty of it.
Preparations begin in late fall. The screens are removed from the porch and the summer furniture stashed in the horse barn. In its place, three cords of wood are stacked. Onions, potatoes, squash, cabbages and apples are stowed in the cellar. The snow shovel rests beside the woodpile on the porch. The table thus set, we await the banquet.
I have a new neighbor, Anne, who is not a new neighbor at all. She has been here far longer than I, but always in the summer, never in the winter. Two years ago, she retired, prepared for herself a new home that would embrace her through the winter months, and moved up from the city. I worried that the long winters would be difficult for her. We have had some winters in the recent past that have been brutal. But last winter was mild and easy, a frustrating succession of calm days carrying balmy temperatures. At least twice, the hayfields turned green, this in January and in February. Lilies and bulbs poked up through the soft earth as the sun beat down. Roads remained clear and we drove here and there without regard for the forecast. Weathermen stumbled in their explanations, but these storms that I wait for never came.
Instead of snow, came wind. Up here on the hill, winds can reach the rate of a speeding car, tossing small objects into the air, toppling trees and pushing snow into massive drifts. But, because we who live here on this hill in the winter are not exactly a population center (pop. 3, up from 2), no notice of these storms are made, nothing recorded, only our memories of “the time when the lights went out.” And so they did, one cold day in February as the door of my car was nearly torn from my hand when I tried to make a quick exit that afternoon. By evening, the electricity was off at my house. I called Anne to see if she needed anything and found that she was perfectly fine. “I have a generator,” she said. “Would you like to come for dinner?” I accepted. Soon after that, several other nearby friends called to see if my lights were off and reported that theirs were, too. Apparently it was an area-wide outage. We all ended up at Anne’s new house, a glowing oasis in the storm, traveling up her long driveway, bearing contributions from our dark refrigerators. It was an unusual evening, wherein lamps seemed ingenious, as did the automatic heat. Good conversation flowed like the blessed water from the tap.
Soon enough our power was restored and then the weather turned mild again. That evening remained our single winter adventure. Plenty of wood was left on the porch and the snow shovel had hardly budged from its lean beside the door. I called it “the winter of a thousand springs.” The disappointing months turned to an imperceptible spring, leaving me hungry, a bit grumpy, as if that fine meal I’d been promised was never served.