Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Saturday, January 3, 2015

First Snow, 2015

As I write, the first snow is falling in this new year of 2015. It started as a few flakes as I went out for a walk and then quickly intensified as I made my way home using a shortcut I've seen people use, which brought me to my street.
Snow from another year (Margo D. Beller)

In a mere 20 minutes an inch has fallen, whitening everything. But this snow will not hang around long. The temperatures will be rising and it will become rain, heavy at times, removing the pretty white.

This is in marked contrast to the beginning of 2014 when we'd already been hit with several snowstorms. It would be a winter of a lot of snow, a lot of rain and a lot of ice on top of the snow, which made the deer, squirrels and birds desperate for food. The year ended with one snowstorm at Thanksgiving. That's been  it until now.

I get restless at this time of year and the cold and threat of snow don't help. It seems to take more effort to walk when it is biting cold - I need to wear warmer shoes and a long, bulky coat, a headscarf and a hat. I have to be especially careful in my early-morning walks on days when even the sun doesn't seem to help. I am not 20 anymore, and when I inhale too much cold air through my mouth the lungs burn and my heart seems to pound so hard I fear I'm about to expire.

Halfway through the 2014 snow season (Margo D. Beller)
(I do not understand those I see who wear shorts in winter or walk around without a hat or gloves. Do they drink anti-freeze? Do they keep their homes at 80 degrees, making a walk in 20-degree chill seem refreshing? Or am I just old and painfully creaky?)

Today it is not that cold, although it is raw. Despite the discomfort, I was driven by the need to get outside and look around before the snow so I could justify staying inside the rest of the day.

I remind myself that getting caught in a snowstorm isn't fun. I've been caught at the Great Swamp when a snow squall hit and only my familiarity with the roads kept me from panicking when I started driving unable to see far out my window. I don't want to worry MH, who has been obsessively watching every weather channel and radar.

Thanks to him I knew this storm was expected around noon. He wanted to stay home. So I kept today's walk short.

I do not like birding in rain and I find very little when birding in snow because most birds are smart enough to hunker down in bad weather, like MH. In my walk today I saw one flying turkey vulture and eight pairs of mallards swimming in the one part of the local pond that hadn't frozen after several days of below-normal temperatures. (That makes it hard to reconcile with the forecast of temperatures climbing to 60 degrees tomorrow and then dropping to the 20s a few days later, another sign of the wacky weather caused by global warming.)

(R.E. Berg-Andersson)
Winter cold, the end of the outdoor growing season and the longer nights make me gloomy and filled with depressing thoughts. So while I am outside I walk briskly to keep them at bay, listening for any bird calls or the sound of human activity in the "Deer Quality Management" area I skirt. (I now wear an orange hat. It is too easy to blend in with the woods otherwise.)

I pass the community garden and see frozen tomatoes on the shrunken vine and several stalks of brussel sprouts someone didn't bother to harvest. Why grow food when you're not going to use it or give it away? A garbage pail overflows. The pond is nearly frozen. The sky is gray and dreary. The snow is now coming down thick and I am not wearing boots. But I know where to go and if my neighbors don't assault me for cutting through the edges of their properties I can get safely home. This time.

I've been relatively lucky in my life but I know a time is coming when I might not be able to take these winter walks, or take care of my house or take care of MH and myself. I am hoping these brisk, restless walks keep that time at bay for as long as possible.