Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Stark Beauty of Winter

From the parapets of Chez Sarge, 14 February 2015, 1700 local.
My first twenty-two years on this planet were spent in Vermont. It is where I was born, it is where I lived in the bosom of my family until going off to don the uniform of the United States Air Force.

For twenty-four years I lived, out there, in the world. Some places had similar winters to what I was used to growing up, most did not. Oh yes, it got cold, it snowed but not like the Vermont of my youth.

I remember playing with my brothers, running around on a crisp October day, it was cold and overcast. The very air had a certain electricity about it, as if something was coming.

Something was, winter was coming.

I remember the sheer joy in my brother's voice as he shouted, "It's snowing!"

Yes, yes it was. Small, random flakes of snow drifting slowly to the ground. We were ecstatic, dashing around like dogs who have not seen their master for some time. The sheer joy, the excitement, yes, the happiness that came over us at the thought of winter and snow is so hard to describe.

Yes, Dad would groan at the thought of having to shovel and also having to drive in the white stuff.

We boys were different. Sure we had to help out with the shoveling, but it always became a game. I'd dump a shovel full of snow on The Olde Vermonter, he'd return the favor, soon the snowballs would fly.

Eventually someone would get snow shoved down his collar, Mom would beckon us to come inside otherwise we "would catch our death of cold!" Poor Dad, he'd soldier on until the driveway and the walk were clean.

There was always the moment, usually after Dad just took his coat off, when "Look at that, the GD plow comes now and shoves all that snow back into the driveway. I just cleaned that up!!!" So Dad would head back out, sometimes we'd go with him, you know to "help," most times we were left in the house as "you kids make more of a mess than you clean up!"

Yes, we did.

Today in Little Rhody, in a most startling development (not!), it started snowing again.

This is the most Vermont-like winter I've seen in Little Rhody by the sea since we moved here, back in the last century.

I have to admit, when I saw the flakes starting to fall, my first thought was "Ah crap. More snow?"

Then the little boy inside me said, "But it's so pretty. Look how it flutters down, listen to the hiss as the flakes cut through the air." For a moment I was a wee lad once more. Here in my beloved New England.

Spring here is a time of renewal, the budding trees, the new flowers.

Summer is hot, a time for beaches and picnics. Summer in New England is a gift from God Himself to be savored and treasured.

Autumn in New England is when the color erupts out of the forest and takes your breath away. The sunlight has a quality, a sharpness which occurs only in the Fall.

Then the leaves fall. The dark dominates as the days get shorter and shorter. Soon the breath of the North wind can be felt on the back of one's neck. Collars go up, hats get pulled down. Winter is coming.

There is a stark beauty in winter here in New England. The trees don their puffy white cloaks after a fresh snowfall, the fields sparkle as if the snow has a thin coating of diamond dust on the surface.

Yes, it gets cold, brutally cold. It can get killing cold here. So cold that too long outside without the proper clothing and you will die. People have in the past, they will in the future. Winter should never be taken lightly. It can be harsh and unforgiving.

But to a true Northerner, winter can be beautiful. So beautiful that in the early spring, when the first rivulets of snow melt begin to trickle down, there is a moment when you rejoice, Spring is coming! But inside, you realize you will miss the winter.

Depending on how long the winter was, of course.

A blanket of white, there's a pond in there, somewhere!

It's going to be a while before I sit at my little table and have a beer after cutting the grass!

But as day follows night, that day will come.


  1. Nicely done, Sarge. Though I grumble about the weather at least 180 times a year, nature's four seasons keep me honest and humble. No doubt about who's in charge!

    The weather man decided to move the jet stream south today and were bunkering up in anticipation of "up to 17 inches" of snow. I'm skeptical, but we'll see. After a month of false spring we could use the moisture. And there I go again giving nature suggestions.

    1. We're getting blizzard conditions this morning. Blowing snow and cold.

      Stark beauty indeed, as long as the power stays on!

  2. In NW Colorado, winters are judged by the number of wires visible on a barbed wire fence. A two wire winter usually means a drought summer. A really bad winter is when even the posts get covered. The town of Steamboat Springs gets an average of 33' per winter.

    1. Winters in that neck of the woods are indeed awe-inspiring.

  3. The heavy stuff missed New Jersey, and I must admit I was disappointed. Of course i don't have to commute in it any more.

    1. It's the not having to commute part that makes all the difference.

      As long as I don't have to go anywhere, the power stays on and the larder is well stocked, "let it snow!" (One more thing, we need the wind to keep blowing so the snow doesn't build up on the roof. It usually does keep blowing though, like now, 20 knot winds, 50 knot gusts in some places!)

  4. Well written, Sarge. I miss the utter stillness experienced while outside in a heavy snow, sans wind of course. Don't miss the snow coming sideways at my face and neck. Stay warm and put a batch of chowder on for all of us, please.

    1. Sideways is no good, that's what it's doing now!

      Chowdah's on!

  5. Living in SoCal you describe a season which I haven't been in since leaving Maine in '65 BUT one I will experience again when we move to NC within a year or so. The misses complains now about the heat. We'll see how she deals with the single digit days like they're experiencing right now.

    1. She will look back at the heat and miss it methinks.

      Then again, NC is very beautiful.

  6. The closest I ever got to Vermont was Maine. Enjoyed the lobster...13 times, I think.

    1. Lobster is good. No, lobster is excellent.

      I hesitate to ask how many days you were in Maine. 13?


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