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Digging Out

January 22, 2010

Even when my body stops moving, somewhere inside I am still bending, scooping, heaving.

 Today is day four of this snowstorm that starts as rain on the California coast, drags across the Southwest like an endless grey quilt yanked across the sky, then rips at the seams dropping snow like so much white batting.

 And between indoor stints of watercoloring and hot chocolate and cluttery games and hoped-for naps and Col making a super long Jenga domino track and Rosie sisterishly crashing into it, we shovel. Every four hours we suit up and head down our hazardously slippery steps, around our backyard where we scare up ravenous flocks of house finches, goldfinches and juncos to the front of the house where our shovels lie waiting.

Day one and two were exhilarating: sweeping the powdery moisture off the stairs like Martha Stewart had sprinkled our house with confectionary sugar in the night. We laughed as we trudged to the chicken coop—snow pants required—watching the conifers become Dr. Seuss-ish caricatures of themselves, or our swing set get gulped by the snow, rising steadily in the yard like a flood.

And even though the suiting up takes twenty minutes—most of which is ticked away by pep-talking Col into getting out of his pajamas and praising Rose for getting dressed so quickly but whoops, she’s wearing a mini-skirt and Col’s boots—it’s refreshing to get outside.

And despite the outdoor thermometer reading 32F, as long as snow is tumbling down, it doesn’t feel that cold. It’s like the friction of snow churning against the air warms it, or maybe we’re all distracted by the beauty, or perhaps it’s all that bending, scooping and heaving.

Col, like his dad, is at his best with tool in hand, making some imprint on the world. He tells me “I’ll do the driveway Mama, you do the sidewalk.” But there is no sidewalk anymore, just heaving drifts of snow. Every moment starts to feel like déjà vu until I’m startled awake from the rhythmic trajectory of my shovel scooping and heaving by the sight of shivery, forlorn Rose, standing right in my swing-zone. Rose typically does a little ceremonial snow-work before losing a mitten, turning a new LL Bean color: snow-kissed pink, and pleading to go back upstairs.

The chicken coop has become a bit of an igloo (high thermal values!), and yesterday afternoon Dan went to close the hens’ door against night predators and asked “Did you give them water today?” Turns out the forgotten water bucket got buried under a foot of snow. Whoops. I promise, when the snow stops falling, I will dig those girls out a straw-strewn cabana and serve them buttered popcorn and warm tea.

Today, day four, I believe the town’s a bit punchy; dizzy and giddy like we’ve been on a wild carnival ride which won’t stop. And yet, the conditions have knit neighborhoods into a tight tribe, everyone with the same shoulder ache and dazzled eyes. Dan and I will don skis, pulling the kids on a sled and when we make it around the block and see our neighbor and friend Jeff, I imagine it’s a little like Lewis and Clark making first contact after a perilous stretch of travels.

But then, with a wipe of the eyes, everything comes into focus; it’s a party and the whole neighborhood is out, celebrating.

There’s Kathleen pulling Neko on the requisite 6512 winter vehicle:

Or our friend and neighbor Tara hauling glaciers out of her driveway:

Nobody could say the goldfinches weren’t having a grand time:

There’s the kids getting on the best ride in town:

Dan, thinking ahead and laying in helpful weekend provisions:

And someday in April, or even March, we’re going to walk right outside without a 10-step prep process of guiding reluctant fingers into mittens, or searching for Rose’s one missing boot. We’re just going to walk outside and point and grin at the bare ground.

But for now, Viva la snow!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Steph permalink
    January 22, 2010 5:43 pm

    My favorite thing about this big snow is the neighborliness that comes from it…. we were all outside last night at 8 pm and LOVING it! I’ve seen more of my neighbors this week than I have all winter long!

  2. January 22, 2010 8:37 pm

    Um yea. You guys got slammed. That is a whole lot of snow. Hang in there. I’m glad you got out to see fellow civilization. That always makes it feel better. Your neighborhood should build a giant under snow tunnel.


  3. January 23, 2010 12:08 am

    I don’t think that I have ever seen that much snow in my lifetime! And, thank goodness, I’m not sure I could handle the shock! I really got my winter fix by looking at all your photos! haha I skipped winter by moving to southern/coastal Georgia this year. (But, boy howdy did I get a double helping of summer! It was HOT!)

    The pics I loved the most were those of your neighbors out communing with each other and enjoying the snow!

    Thank you for the compliment! That was an awesome way to brighten my day! I look forward to coming back here and getting to know you better!

    Enjoy your weekend. Drink lots of hot beverages!!

  4. January 23, 2010 9:41 am

    When I lived in Tahoe for a bit, we had those days and weeks. Now that I’m securely in the Bay Area, and I get to drive to the snow, I find myself so weakened by the steady rain rain rain hail rain, that I’d give anything to have it be anything other than rain.

    Here’s hoping the girls survive their winter and enjoy the coming cabana.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      January 23, 2010 11:23 am

      Patois – we were recently in the Bay Area and it felt a bit like paradise with all the green growth and flowers blooming and farmers markets and no need for down jackets and mittens, but it’s true that steady rain can be challenging; even if we can’t leave our neighborhood, at least we can get outside in the snow! Rachel

  5. January 23, 2010 10:39 am

    I think my absolute favorite thing (and I have a few favorites) about a good snow storm is the coming together of the ‘hood. Good times! Stay warm over there!

  6. January 23, 2010 10:27 pm

    The community part is so fun. I LOVE your pics. We had a terrible storm when I lived at 6500 and I went to the post office one day during a power outage and overheard a little old lady talking to someone about being nearbouts out of firewood. A gentleman passing by quickly offered to deliver some to her house and stack it near her door for her free of charge. Something about weather and a bit of hardship brings souls together. It’s an opportunity when it isn’t driving ya nuts with freezing your parts off!!
    Warm wishes, mama…

  7. January 24, 2010 9:13 am

    So much snow!

  8. January 24, 2010 1:29 pm

    It is sleeting/snowing here north of Superior but we are not buried — yet.

    Just wanted to say I’m happy to have come across y’all at 6512 … and definitely counting.


  9. January 25, 2010 11:43 am

    Goodness! It is starting to fall here… we are in the white batting stage. Your reads are the best. You have such talent with the way you write.

    I hope little Rose can find her boot! We have things buried too.. like the snow shovel Otto took out to the chicken coop– or so he said.

  10. January 25, 2010 1:36 pm

    oh thank you, thank you, thank you for making me feel– just for a moment– like we’ve been getting dumped on for four days, as opposed to the January thaw happening all around me right now. While we’re wishing for travel by sled, we’re more in the hop-from-ice-island-to-ice-island path right now, surrounding by ice cold puddles pooling up in the roads. The mud-heavy grasses aren’t ready to be so exposed, but they are peeking through like unwanted bald spots. sigh. Loved your words and photos– stay warm, and enjoy the snow…

  11. January 26, 2010 12:17 am

    It’s been fun all this snow! It makes winter feel so wintry! The sun was nice today…… we’re lucky to have these nice sunny days after the storms! I hope you’re all dug out by now!

  12. January 26, 2010 12:10 pm

    this was so evocatively written — felt like i was there with you.

    we’ve had much less snow than usual this year. i hadn’t missed it, until i read this post!

  13. January 26, 2010 1:05 pm

    LOVE your provisions!!!

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