Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Snow Thing

I've been counting the times its snowed since we got here Nov. 1. People are amused by it.

I grew up in Texas. In the panhandle there are the occasional snowfalls that attract notice, but that part of the world is at the edge of the earth. Amarillo gets more than 16 inches of snow a year and is closer to Denver than it is to Austin.

But Dallas averages barely 2.5 inches a year in snow. Most years there's no snow at all. It's an outlier.

So snow is novel and exciting to me. When I was a kid my brother and I used to have annual visits to see our beloved Aunt Becky, who lived near Detroit. We usually went up on or near Christmas Day, and returned on or near New Year's. We loved the snow. I've never been on water skis, but learned to snow ski in Michigan.

We liked winter things. Maybe because it was foreign and fresh. We ice skated on a frozen lake, watched people play pond hockey. We built a snowman, a big one, one there would never be enough snow for in Texas. We went to a cider mill and watched the giant wooden press wheel turn and warmed ourselves with hot cider. We saw NHL games for the first time in dilapidated old Olympia Stadium. Growing up I learned to love hockey, and to this day I find the Summer Olympics kind of meh but wish I could spend the full 16 days every four years watching the Winter Olympics. The downhill, the jumping, luge and bobsled, and now the new winter sports involving snowboards all seem like such fun to me.

Later in life we repeated some snow trips to Michigan, including one trip we crossed into Ontario and went to see Niagara Falls, encrusted in snow and ice. On another trek there, this one work-related in January, I experienced my first blizzard. It actually closed down Metro airport, so it was big even by Michigan standards.

The first time I went to Montreal, I was there for five days and it snowed almost throughout.

I loved it. The next-to-last day there, M and I trudged up to the top of Parc Mont Royal, which opens to a majestic view overlooking the city center just south. Stunning.

On the days prior, Montreal offered a snow smorgasbord of fat flakes, fast snow, slow snow, spitting sleeting snow that hits exposed skin like tiny needles... I loved all of it.

The most wintry place I've ever lived has been Northwest Arkansas. And that's just not that wintry.

Snow No. 10 is expected to start in less than 24 hours, and this one has even the locals intrigued. I'm seeing and hearing the word "historic" associated with the predicted blizzard that from early tomorrow into Saturday is projected to produce anywhere from a foot to (in the most extreme possibility) FIVE FEET of snow. Conservatively, forecasts call from 2 to 4 inches of snowfall PER HOUR when the storm peaks. The blizzard, which comes from the high winds in excess of 35 mph, will produce whiteout conditions.

Besides the obvious beauty of a snowy scene post-fall, one thing about snowfalls that I love is the quiet. Especially in a city (and greater Boston is home to more than 4.5 million people), there is a lot of ambient noise. The hum of a city is amazing. You've got traffic, trains, buses, the chatter of people, the power that creates a natural buzz.

In a snowfall... even if it's just for a little while... it's oh so quiet. It's kind of magical, really. You can create some quiet within your life by a lot of methods, but how often does the city itself pipe down?

As I peer out my window I see a gorgeous, cloudless blue sky and bright sunlight. That's expected to go away within hours before the storm hits. I've got things to do before this happens... a store run to stock up on some items, put gas in the car, prepare to hunker down. I also have to prepare for the storm's immediate aftermath, which will be some serious shoveling and digging out. By Monday the storm will be long gone and temperatures are expected to climb well above freezing. The snow will start to go away and it'll be all over except for the talking.

And then I'll be looking forward to Snow No. 11.

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