We have eight good inches of snow and the atmosphere is starting to rise above freezing. The weather report on my phone says that later this afternoon there will be more snow—or, what some sites are referring to as a ‘wintry mix’: snow beginning to turn to rain, or freezing rain, which should make this a very different reality.
Today is Monday, after a week of snow and more snow. The weather forecasters are starting to turn our thoughts to what will happen as it begins to thaw, which is predicted to start today or tomorrow. Still, there was very little traffic out this morning, and my campus all the way across the sound is one of the many schools that are closed, so I’m assuming that maybe everyone is staying in; not much seems to be going on out in the normal world.
I live at the top of a long hill: a series of steep inclines broken briefly by the cross streets. Ever since the snow started last week, traveling on the road has been changeable,and very tricky—not always because it’s slick, but because the house-bound kids and parents have been sledding: plastic slide-things, classic Flexible Flyers, portable toboggans—all of them appear at intervals during the day, filled with brightly colored jackets of kids and parents.
Earlier today we had a small group of thirty-somethings out for a brief session. One of them has a lab mix my young female dog loves so much that she actually vaulted over the deckrail and into the snow after him, a drop of about ten feet. She was retrieved and showed absolutely no remorse. Everyone, everything is just a little bit snow-wild.
About mid-day snow has started again and the temperature is 33, and my two dogs are agitated and not letting me get much work done. I decide to take them on their walk in this part of the afternoon, rather than get caught later in the nastiness of whatever ‘wintry mix’ turns out to be. Snow is coming down harder and harder but given the weather reports it’s possible to be our last walk in the sincerely beautiful tree-line roads, all frosted in thick layers of white. I dress for walking in falling snow and with the dogs on leashes, we head out.
It’s remarkably quiet. Even more than when the power goes out because no one is running a generator. I don’t see signs of any cars braving it today, though the road doesn’t seem icy, just snow-packed, and the descent from the top of the hill has pretty good traction compared to earlier in the week when I was afraid the dogs were going to haul me all the way down, involuntarily.
I’ve been using the daily dog walk to keep my eye on road conditions. Even I wouldn’t drive all the way down my road on my way out: like most everyone else I’d cut left toward the water to take the lesser incline there.
Walking down from the top of the hill I glance further toward the next drop, wondering if anyone’s attempted driving that today. I can see down to where the street levels out briefly before coming more steep again, and I see two trucks parked at the top of the next drop. There’s also an orange cone, indicating it’s blocked off. My snow-watch sense, which has been triggered on and off all week, makes me both concerned and curious, so the dogs and I continue down that way to see if something unfortunate has happened.
The parked trucks seem to have been there a little while, though there’s tracks coming out of the driveway across from them, so someone’s been driving. We pass the trucks and look down–into some sort of alternative universe:
The hill is dotted with small groups, holding or sitting on sleds, adjusting their children onto sleds, standing on skis—and at the perpendicular side street someone has set up a tent canopy, under which is a sound system and a full-on grill: the smell of cooking hotdogs and brats and the bass of the speakers waft through the falling snow and the voices of all the revelers. Couples are sitting on small rises in the snowy yards, carboard cases of beer cooling next to them in the drifts, talking and listening to the music. Then a young boy calls out and everyone clears the dogs and younger kids out of the way—he launches out from the rise of a driveway on a snowboard, slicing all the way down the long hill, dropping to the main road a couple of blocks away.
One of the beer drinkers says, “Well, no one’s going to top that today!” as I walk over to a cluster of neighbors and dogs. “Who’s set up is this?” I ask, still amazed at the scene all around me, and she tells me, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. “This is amazing!” I say, more or less just out loud. She toasts her beer and says, “Right? I mean, what else are we going to do?”
Now a trio of snow-sleds packed with dads and kids go whipping past, all cheering and young ones happily screaming. My dogs are tangling up a Labrador and a Jack Russell, and I disentangle them, smile and wave, and head way down on the side road.
I am met by another neighbor on cross country skis, another woman and another dog, heading for the festivities. But it’s just a matter of minutes before the sound of all that’s behind me, and it’s just my boots crunching in the snow and the dogs straining to dive around in the berm of snow alongside the road.
We walk for an hour, all told. The snow has not let up, and it hasn’t turned into anything else—not rain, freezing rain, no shower of gold—it’s just snow, and lots of it, good and steady, as the afternoon light turns gray.
Walking into my driveway I see my immediate neighbor walking by, ask if she knows about the gathering downhill. “Oh, yeah, I was there earlier with the kids,” she says. “I wasn’t really cold, but I just came up to put on my snow pants. I’ve already taken down some stuff from the freezer.” And, to-go mug in hand, back down the hill she goes.
After ten hours without power last Monday, we’ve been very lucky: our little town has remained energized throughout the storm. Not trusting it, though, I keep doing what needs to be done with electricity while I can, and I have a lot of work to do this afternoon. Plus, as this all begins to melt and the heavy, wetter snow drops off the trees, it’s very likely we could lose power again.
The weather report says this will all start to wash away by tomorrow. But as I sit here writing this another good three or four inches has fallen and it’s still coming down. It’s bright in my house, and warm, and for now at least, the dogs are tired out and sleeping by the fire. Outside it is snow-quiet, the muffled wonder of an atmosphere full of thick, dusty flakes.
It’s nice to be here, in the warmth and the light, surrounded by a cold, slightly blue twilight–confident that two blocks away,the heart of Indianola is still sizzling and happily in motion.