Climbing temperature

Fri, 02/18/2022 - 5:45am

Earlier, around mid-morning, I stood washing dishes, looking out over the snow-dappled field. It looked like winter, the good winter of clear, sunny skies and the remnants of a storm. It was not the rare, perfect snow fallen in the calm, a gentle blanket on the land that could last days in sub-freezing temperatures, but it was
there, not just ribbons where drifts had been.
The temperature was climbing from real cold that has blown in and out, not staying long enough to threaten a serious freeze or even close the surface of the big but shallow pond behind the house. The temperature was climbing and in a few hours the land had the look I remember, the afternoon of the morning following a night of snow.

They were exquisite mornings, when I was a child and didn’t have to think about getting in and out and trudging through snow was an adventure, an excuse to wear pants to school, even if under a skirt. There would be a calm, we’d make it over to the house on the corner where the car had been left and drive out through the Minister’s Lot, still an open meadow with a road down the middle.
We lost our escape route, not because of the houses but because the road had been moved “beside the wall” where, of course, my mother opined, drifts grew.
She wasn’t wrong.
The world was white and blue and sparkling, towering drifts on the main road cut by a plow out all night, like one blocking my barnyard, in the same places they are today. Most of all it was the solidly white fields that were spellbinding, for knowing they could be gone by the time school got out. The drifts along the walls would remain for weeks, months it seemed, but holding onto that cover that would give us sledding was more difficult.
We did not have a blizzard over the weekend, more an oddly anemic day of show showers I expected to be more, followed by a night of snow, followed by a day of dreaded wind. It was not the storm of two weeks ago, I didn’t even move my car from the barnyard north of the house to the front yard, beyond that one drift that holds true, from the pasture gate, across the bend in the road to the old lilac that marks the corner of the yard. The road was open but it was cold and icy and I waited until early afternoon to go out. The snow had stopped falling but in the way of Block Island snows, the wind was blowing, and I know from years of living here that clouds of white, rolling, can alter the landscape and I need to move the car.
Someone had been in earlier to check on the horses so I knew the road was open. The drift about which I had been concerned wasn’t bad, easily broken through, then, in the way of these days of a wind shifting slightly, there was a rogue peak across an open place in the road, a sort of mini Jersey barrier of soft snow. The field on either side was open and flat and more to the point, clear, but it wasn’t much of a drift. I stopped and looked at it, and had a vision of my late mother driving up this same road in her two-tone green Dodge Dart as though she was at the wheel of a plow, throwing up clouds of glistening crystals.
The lower part of the road, which could look fine but be one long, wide, deep drift was also clear, and out I went with the certainty of the older ladies who always made it to church when I was young. I knew the turn onto Mansion Road would be passable but I did not expect that other Drift of Certainty to be missing, completely, bare, wind-swept road, in its place.

I was out a few hours, time enough for the sun to melt bits of snow clinging to the paved road, to lure me into a sense of all-is-well.
Then I came home. The little drift had not much rebuilt but that mound at the turn to the barnyard showed little sign of my having driven through it earlier. The sun is rising and creeping toward summer but it is still low and from the southwest in afternoon and the snow was still moving. I’d been lucky, I wasn’t going to chance it a second time and pulled up on the edge of the yard, glad the ground is still solid from the cold.
Looking east was pure winter, the pond the deepest of blues, the ocean beyond the same. Snow had long been shaken from the high brown brush that moves in the wind, but the cold had let it cling to parts of the wall that remain. It was ten minutes after the sun would have set back in the darkest afternoons of December and the field was a study in sunlight and shadow, the tan grass of a cut, but not shorn field, poking though the settled white.
Then I turned around, looking west, and that sharp, clearly defined world was gone, replaced by sun refracted by wind-borne snow crystals. At the time I was thinking snow globes and getting back into my car and turning on the heat before walking across the yard in the cold wind.

It was more, of course, than the direction of the sun, it was the lay of the land, and the snow being swept off the north pasture into the west part of the front field.

Now, the temperature is still climbing and the sun had scuttled behind the clouds. Rain is in the forecast, our few days of a snowy landscape — and nights of glorious almost full moonlight — are of the past and the sodden March is threatening a not-so-sneak preview appearance.