'Snow had fallen snow on snow ...'
The weather forecasters have been vindicated. The snowstorms that they predicted would rage through Southern Oregon actually did. We had been warned about snowstorms in the past, only to have the system brush by us, leaving a handful of little flakes scuffling about the streets looking like they were lost.
The prognosticating continues as the weather folks and those who like to make predictions over coffee try to determine just when these storms will go away or come back again. Then there are those who theorize that a big storm hits the Rogue Valley just about every 10 years.
That theory works for me. I remember the one that hit just about a decade ago. My wife and I and a friend's two young children were at a Christmas fair when the sky began to look menacing. With the wisdom that is innate among mothers, my wife said we should leave immediately. We piled into the car and by the time we were on our way the storm had arrived.
In what seemed like less than a minute or two, the snow was sticking and coming down in whatever the snow metaphor is for buckets. We just barely made it up the steep hill to our house. Had we stayed any longer at the fair — sounds like a song — we'd probably still be there.
I remember another time we were stuck in the snow. We lived in southern New Hampshire back then and the snow blanked everything in sight under several feet of cold white. The electricity was down and we were living with a few other families on a farm. We dug our way out to the barn where the automatic milking machines sat powerless and milked the cows the good old-fashioned way — by hand.
Fortunately we heated the house with a wood and oil-burning furnace. We had a gas stove and melted snow to cook with. We also melted snow to use in the bathrooms. Candles served as our lamps. All in all, we lived pretty much like people used to live in New England one or two centuries ago. Or like we lived for four hours in Ashland last week, logs burning in the fireplace, candles placed in the kitchen, living and dining rooms, our gas stove happily cooking our dinner. Kind of romantic, actually, if you have the time to enjoy it.
We have a friend from Massachusetts living with us. In Massachusetts when there is a snowstorm, the wind drives the flurries horizontally across the sky and the surroundings below. After spending many winters in those conditions, our friend has come to love the snow and always finds an excuse to be out in it.
The current storm created just the right conditions for cross-country skiing without having to go to Mount Ashland. My wife and another friend joined her and the three deftly glided on top of the freshly fallen snow. Meanwhile, hapless drivers were trying to coax their cars and trucks through it. The skiers made more progress than the drivers, some of whom had to abandon their vehicles which had slid to a precarious stop on a hill somewhere around town — or in front of our driveway.
Unless you live in New England or the Midwest, compared to rain, snow falls in slow motion — even in a storm. You can watch single flakes tumbling out of the sky, and, in the quiet, you can hear them hit the ground. If you don't have to drive in it, the snow provides a beauty that stirs the soul. Trees become completely white — trunks, branches and whatever leaves or needles remain — as if made of bleached coral. For me, mountains always look better with a cap of snow on them, like a bald eagle. Snow has a way of softening the landscape. Edges are blunted. Demarcation between road and lawn become obscured and often disappear.
And, as if it were made of cotton, the snow muffles whatever sounds there are, leaving a stillness that I can still recall from back when I was about 9 years old. I had gone outside in the late evening, it was dark. And snowing steadily. No cars were about so I stood in the road in front of our house looking at the snow. There was not a sound anywhere — except for the gentle rustling of the snow. I watched the flakes fall, their path illumined by a street lamp, and savored the moment — the way children instinctively do — storing up memories to sustain them in their later years.
I, too, love the snow.