Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow Day

I woke to the sound of the wind whistling over the new house. Beneath this was a silence I remembered from waking up on 4th grade school mornings, knowing it had snowed and almost certain, by the thick, muffling quiet, that school would be closed. This morning I opened the blinds above the bed and lost myself in spinning flakes and thought of winters back East.

For a while we all lived in my grandparents’ house. 3 generations in a hand built, 3 bedroom home. Each winter we put plastic covering over the windows to keep out drafts. Translucent but not transparent, the plastic reduced the world beyond to a milky blur. The house creaked and the plastic rippled constantly – ship sounds. When we couldn’t afford fuel, we heated the rooms with portable kerosene heaters. We were dizzy and headachy most of the time. Only the picture window in the front room was uncovered. It looked out to the ash woods across the road and two birch trees that grew in the front yard. When the snow fell really heavily the birches dissappeared -only the dark knots on their bark were visible, like black eyes hanging in white.

A storm came in one night, dropping feet snow. On the TV, the weatherman split into two, sometimes three blurry copies of himself as the wind spun the antennae on the roof. My grandfather had a heart attack that night. Using phone and CB radio, we called neighbors to help dig out the 20-yard drive to the house so the ambulance could get in. They arrived on snowmobiles and trucks with plows attached. We dug like crazy while my grandmother kept him warm. The big plow appeared at top of the hill, a strange angel with its wings parting the snow on both sides of the road and its red light spinning in the dark air. Behind came the ambulance. My grandfather was fine.

The simplest memory is winter on the Blue Ridge Mountains. A gentle snowfall softening and fading the old, hard rock hills till the only difference between sky and earth was color. In the distance even this distinction blurred.

It’s dark now and the icy streets shine the same as the streetlights above them. In places it looks as if the orange light melted down on the asphalt, then hardened again in long, dimly shinning rows.