At around 1 in the morning, I was awakened by the sound of a chain saw. What’s going on?
I got up and looked out the window. Big lights were on, the lights of a snowplow come to dig out the driveway, but it had stopped before getting out front. I wondered if it had found a big tree limb blocking its way, so the driver emerged into the snow (it was still snowing then), sawed off the limb, pushed it away, and then came down to dig us out.
I don’t remember it ever working so hard and so long. We had some 15-20 inches of watery, heavy snow and it was tough going for the plow. I like to go downstairs in these times, turn on the garage light, open up the garage door, wave, offer coffee. But not last night; I’m suffering from a persistent asthmatic cough.
It was gorgeous. We haven’t had this much snow all year, probably in a few years, and I almost forgot what the trees look like under those white, cottony shrouds. It’s as if they lose their distinctive shapes and turn into a Kwan-yin bent over, with her many arms covered in snow and groaning low over the ground.
Yesterday morning Lori and I walked around, I with a broom handle, and brushed away as much of the snow on the vulnerable branches as we could, especially the forsythia and lilac bushes. We also filled birdfeeders. But much more snow fell over the next 24 hours.
Brushing off snow from a pine that was crouching dangerously over the laundry lines, I heard the familiar CRACK. Here it comes, I thought, crouching even lower under the tree for shelter. A big mound of snow crashed some 3 feet away, but I was nervous about what else was coming down. Whatever it was seemed to be held up by other tree limbs and never smashed on top of me.
We never lost power, though lots of electricity lines collapsed all over the county.
Aussie was not happy.
“I am not happy.”
“Why, Auss? I thought you love the snow.”
“We’re not taking any walks.”
“No kidding, Aussie. There are some 20 inches covering the driveway; I don’t have boots that high.”
“I’m ready to perform aussie-kiri.”
“What’s that, Auss?”
“Hari-kiri but without Hari. Why should Japanese suicide be named after a Chihuahua?”
“Now where are you going?”
“To the back yard. I love murderizing squirrels.”
I looked out last night and early this morning, opened front and back doors. Steps were full of snow and, of course, there was the silence. A big snowfall brings a big silence with it. You listen and listen, and what you’re listening to is silence because there are no sounds. It’s as if the universe has taken a break from all the burn and bluster, here on Earth or else in outer space, and coats everything in a white bridal gown, a new beginning for our relationship with our planet and each other. The flakes vary from each other but don’t boast of it. No identity politics here, just snow covering everything, past and present.
The only sounds were comforting ones: the Grass Roots plow blustering down the driveway at 1 am, repeating its loud, metallic sweeps as it laboriously pushed the heavy snow out of the way, yellow light flashing. Or else the bigger town plows up on the road. I would open my eyes and, through the small window of the closet that looks out back, would espy a monster roaring its way on huge tires with lights, bells, and whistles.
Then I would go back to sleep, warm and cared for. All around us, people slept.
We haven’t had such a big storm in a long time, and I wondered when it would happen again. If it would happen again.
I’ve lived in New England only for some 21 years, and still I remember that a snowstorm wasn’t called that for anything much less than a foot of snow. Under 12 inches and it was just snow. Not anymore. Our storms over the past few winters consisted of a few inches of snow with a glaze of ice, and we needed plows to spread soil over the ice rather than sweep out the snow.
Standing by the open door last night, I felt a funny feeling: Maybe I’m seeing the last of these powerful nor’easters. Could be they’re a dying breed, like other species, and won’t return again for a long time. I felt I was missing it, almost grieving over it, even as the snow continued to fall.
It’s already mid-March, the Ides of March when Julius Caesar was told he would die, and I wondered what prophecy was unfolding before my eyes this cold, icy night.