Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snow Day in Scotland

We bring with us our expectations and memories along with our luggage when we come to a new place. If we are staying for a long weekend or a fortnight's holiday, we probably will not unpack all those memories any more than all the clothes we have brought. After 4 years, I have unpacked a lot of those associations, but even so I get a surprise.

Today ushered in a new season of surprises and mix and match associations with a snowfall. The first proper snowfall I have seen in my four years here. Snow began yesterday--fitfully. I watched the flurries out the window and had to wonder "Is that snow or sea froth?" Only then did the classic question, that Hoosier schoolgirl memory one, kick in, "Will it stick?"

A little girl in Indiana knows that if the snow sticks--one flake cooling the earth and another falling on it before it melts and so on to create a blanket of snow on the ground--on the roads, on the rooftops, adorning the tops of evergreens--then the yellow school buses are stopped and the world gets an unscheduled holiday--a snow day.

If it sticks, if the yellow buses are halted for the day, then the next question is "Is it good packing snow?" Packing snow has the right volume and moisture content to stick together in gentle balls--a few for hurling but mostly for rolling into giant balls for snow men. I can still remember the sound of the ball rolling, squeaking, grudging that last round of snow to reveal the startled grass below and the amount of effort required to move it without setting it into avalanche mode.

I always made the base of the snow man so big that it was a monumental effort to get the torso heaved into place. Unless I could enlist my big brother's help to perch the final ball--the head--into place, I would have a headless snowman. This headlessness happened often enough that I learned to modify the traditional three balls perched atop each other by creating a head carved out of the torso--the erstwhile middle ball. I like to think this was an aesthetic success but I doubt it. It resulted in very snowy mittens. Until the snow melted, it stayed harmlessly out of the way decorating my mittens.

When I got older I learned to ski on the snow and older still I learned to drive on it and in time became enough of an adult that I knew that snow was hazardous and inconvenient and that my employer would recommend staying at home but would not pay for a day at home. Nonetheless, those grown up memories don't stick to the flakes of snow piling up on the ground.

As I look down at the snow I can tell in an instant that it is not good packing snow--too wet. I also can tell at a glance that the snow will soon be melting. If it is not good snow for playing in, then the next best thing is that it be short lived.

I go to the back door and realize with a start that this is the first time I have ever lived in a house without a snow shovel--or two. I usually had a small, light one that went into the car as soon as the leaves began to fall. I usually had another, heavier one in the garage. When I traded in my snowman-making mittens for grown up gloves, my principal snow activity became shoveling it out of the way. The morning after a snowfall would mean a chorus of metal blades along cement--a clanging, scraping intrusion on the softening effect of the snow.

Snow blowers were more efficient. I was grateful to a neighbour who brought hers along and cleared my driveway in minutes rather than the hours it might take with a shovel, but shovelling snow was as close as I could get to the snowman days of my youth. I liked admiring the flakes lying intact on the top of the heap on my shovel as they shimmered in the weak winter light. I liked the ploosh as it flew off the end of the blade and landed in a heap of snow at the edge of the driveway or sidewalk. I liked watching the wall of snow building up with each shovelfull as if I were tunneling into the whimsical world of my childhood.

I liked clearing a narrow channel through the sidewalk in front of my neighbour's house knowing they could not do it for themselves. The first snow brings out the best in everyone. People stop and push each other's cars out of ditches. Neighbours offer up the salt or grit or shovels or tools their more forgetful neighbours need. Everyone remembers to fill their bird feeders. Sometimes this good feeling lingers throughout the long snow season; more often it dwindles as the snows become more common and lose their magic, but each new first flake brings that out again.
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At 1:53 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

Wow, I'd forgotten snowmen! How could I do that? In my thoughts about moving back to Michigan I've focused on shoveling.

But now I get to think - what kind of creatures and structures could I build with free time and an urge to play?

Perhaps a fierce Balinese Barong to guard my entrance!

What fun that will be!

At 1:53 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

ohhh... do you think that I could find a way to give him red LED eyes?

At 10:24 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Indeed! How could you forget snowmen? Oh yes, I can see that snow heaping up--I think, if I may be so bold, two guardians--one either side of the door. You can get stick on LEDs --I have some that I bought for bird scarers to keep them out of the barley.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

You're right, one on either side of the door as guardians would be perfect.

I guess I'd forgotten the feel of them, the fun of it. Your post brought that back and made me long to play in the snow.

Stick on LEDs would be just the thing. I haven't seen them, thought maybe two hollowed places that I could fit with small flashlights would work, but stick-on would be much better.

Now, in my mind's eye, I'm building a long, tail-curling dragon along the driveway, glaring out towards the road, sharp teeth made of icicles!

At 2:09 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hayden, I have been noodling over your dragon comment. There is something about dragons and feng shui--check it out before you make even a temporary dragon. They can be very powerful.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Joanne B Kaar said...

Your not wearing your newest scarf!!

At 9:59 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Joanne, my new scarf would have been perfect. You should see what I have in mind. Alas, just now my "studio" aka laundry room is being remodeled, so it may be after Christmas before I get to it.


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