How’s the weather


Sunbathing

Our cats are indoor cats, so they spend a lot of time watching the weather from inside. Whoever designed our house must have had cats in mind, as many of the radiators are topped with broad wooden shelves that make perfect perches for both basking and bird-watching.

Afternoon birdwatching

Yesterday was a good day to be an indoor cat as it was cold and sunny: perfect for sunbathing in a warm and sheltered spot. I spent the day prepping classes and grading, so like an indoor cat I spent most of the day inside looking out. When you stay inside on a cold and sunny day, you can trick yourself into thinking it’s warmer than it is, summer right around the corner rather than frozen in its tracks.

I sometimes wonder what the cats make of the snow piles that impede their window views in winter and then gradually recede in spring. Can the cats sense the cold through the glass, or is even their imagined sense of the world outside climate controlled?

Buried shopping cart

The forecast calls for daytime highs in the 40s all this week, which means we’re beginning to see buried things surfacing out of the snow. It will be weeks before we see our lawn, but the top of our backyard birdbath has emerged, and in a nearby parking lot I saw the edge of a shopping cart peeking out of a head-high snow pile: the last place, presumably, a snowplow had pushed it.

Plowed pallet emerges from snowbanks

People often talk about how pretty snow is, and that’s true when it’s fresh-fallen and white. These days, however, the salt-blanched roads are lined with exhaust-blackened snowdrifts that have hardened and eroded into irregularly jagged shapes, more like sedimentary stone than anything akin to water. Like swords from a stone, all manner of random things are surfacing from beneath the snow: plow-battered pallets, smashed trash cans, and broken and uprooted park benches.

Stone wall emerges from melting snow

Spring is coming, the warmer temperatures and lengthening days suggest…but first we have to weather an awkward adolescence where the snow is ugly and ice-bottomed puddles are more treacherous than ice or snow alone. On Saturday, I ventured to Home Depot in search of ice melt, and everyone else in the store seemed to have the same idea, stockpiling what we hope is our last stash of the stuff. On the drive home, there was a mild traffic jam as a queue of cars at a popular car-wash snaked into the street: as reliable a sign of spring as any other.

New bathroom bud

The peace lily in my bathroom has sent up a tightly rolled bud, as it does every March and September: the two times of year when the hours of available daylight suggest “spring.” It will be a long time before any flowers bloom outside–our snowdrops are still buried in a head-high pile of snow, and I’ve abandoned all hope for crocuses–but it’s heartening that even a potted plant can sense the eventual arrival of spring.

Circles in snow

I’ve been around the sun enough times to know how New Englanders cherish even the smallest signs of spring. Our backyard cardinals have been singing in the gradually brightening mornings, it’s still light after 5:00 pm, and we can once again see the top of our backyard birdbath above the shrinking and settling snowpack. Last night we got a couple inches of new snow, but it was sloppy mix of ice and rain: the sludgy stuff that falls in autumn and spring, when temperatures are volatile.

Venusvine with stones, snow, and fog

Sometimes during these tenuous in-between days, I wonder how prehistoric humans handled those early winters before the sequence of seasons was a known, predictable thing. Before calendars tracked the pattern of the seasons, did those early humans give up all hope of winter ever ending? Even a potted plant somehow counts the hours of available sunlight, and even backyard birds know when to sing in spring. We humans, though, rely upon our big, ponderous brains, which equivocate on this and other important matters.

Snowy field with two hearts

In March, we humans waver in our hopes, uncertain whether spring will ever come. We doubt and we question, our fluctuating moods as indecisive as weather. But both the plants and birds know the light is lengthening and the season shifting, snow gradually giving way to sun as the earth leans into another turn. While we humans waver and wonder, the birds and plants simply know.

Apart from the peace lily at the top of this post, today’s photos come from a January trip to the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, when the snow was as dense and sludgy as today’s.

Twirling

Back in December, dancers from the India Society of Worcester performed before a Boston Celtics game J and I attended. There were several troupes of dancers, each dressed in colorful, flowing skirts or loose-fitting, spangled pants. As the dancers twirled to uptempo music, I shot photo after photo, knowing there would come a point later in the winter when I’d be so tired of a monochromatic palette of Overcast and Snow, I’d cherish any spot of light and color.

All a-swirl

We’ve officially reached that point. As I type these words, both darkness and snowflakes are falling, with a blizzard forecast for tonight into tomorrow. For the fourth time in so many weeks, J and I are hunkering down, hoping we don’t lose power and knowing we’ll have to dig out once again when the storm is over. The snow in our yard is waist-deep, and I wonder when we’ll see our buried lawn again: sometime in April?

Strike a pose

Every winter, I find myself relying upon a tried-and-true handful of coping strategies to stoke the inner fires: anything to get myself through these doldrum days. I wear a bright pink coat because the color cheers me, and I like to imagine myself as a bright beacon in a season when most folks wear black or other shades of dark drab. I don’t scrimp on footwear, knowing I’m far happier when my feet are warm and dry: the pricy Huntress Wellies I’ve been clomping around in most of the winter have been worth every penny.

On the Jumbotron

And I know to use music as a kind of medicine, listening (and dancing) to salsa on Pandora as I do my morning chores and pulling out the big guns–not one but two Bellydance Superstars CDs–on my dreary, gridlocked drives to and from work, the grocery store, or other errands. Such upbeat and exotic music helps me imagine I’m someplace warm and colorful, and I can imagine myself barefoot and shimmying in a bright, jingling outfit rather than waddling flat-footed in boots and a bulky coat.

Buried table

Remember that photo of our patio table and chairs I posted in January, after winter storm Juno dumped a foot and a half of snow in our backyard? As of this afternoon, that table had been completely covered in snow from winter storm Marcus, and more has fallen (and continues to fall) since then.

Path to back door

Both yesterday and today, J spent a few hours in the afternoon raking snow from the roof and snow-blowing the sidewalks and driveway, and I shoveled the areas the snow-blower can’t reach, like the front and rear entryways as well as the gate to our backyard dog pen. Both yesterday and today, I brushed about a half foot of snow off my car even though we have nowhere to go: J and I stayed close to home yesterday and today, and tomorrow I have another snow day from teaching.

We’ll have to do it all over again tomorrow, after the snow has finally stopped falling, and after the plows have made their final pass down our street, leaving a tall wall of white at the base of our driveway. We’ll have to roof-rake, snow-blow, and shovel again tomorrow, but at least for one brief moment this afternoon, J and I felt like we’d made a (temporary) dent in the ever-accumulating snow piles.

Me in snow

That’s me standing on the sidewalk J dutifully cleared this afternoon, three weeks’ worth of storms leaving us with waist-deep drifts in our backyard…and we’ve gotten even more snow since then.

Keep it clear

Our beagle, Melony, didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, burrowing into the blankets after the alarm went off in the hope that I might miss her, leaving her to snuggle rather than taking her out to do her business in a cold and snow-filled dog pen.

Snowed in

Our white German shepherd, Cassie, has trampled some paths in the dog-pen snow that Melony gladly follows on warm days, sometimes refusing to come when I call, leaving me to stomp through the snow after her. But that happens only on warm days when the air is humid and the snow squishy. On frigid days when the snow squeaks underfoot and the air is dry and razor-sharp, Melony is waiting for me at the dog-pen gate, jumping and whimpering in anticipation.

Snow on trees

We’re supposed to get more snow this weekend: a storm that’s going to stall right over us, pumping out snow for four straight days. But before the storm, the chill: this morning was below zero, and now it’s warmed to the single digits: at the moment, too cold for snow.

This is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Weather. Although I did snap a photo of Melony burrowing in blankets this morning, the photos I show you here come from Framingham State yesterday.

Intermission

February in New England feels like waiting. We dig out from one snowstorm then brace for the next; we count the days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. March is muddy and messy, but at least it holds the hope of spring. February, on the other hand, is just winter grown old.

Ready to begin - turn off your cell phones!

Last week J and I went to a matinee BSO concert. Symphony Hall is an insulated, bunker-like space: it’s sometimes described as a building inside a building, with the outside walls keeping the street-sounds out and the inner walls keeping the sound of music in. When you’re inside Symphony Hall, it’s as if the outside world doesn’t exist. Inside Symphony Hall the environment is warm and attentive, with every ear attuned to an incoming wave of music. Outside, the world is cold and cacophonous, both the winter wind and the blare of car horns battering your senses the instant you leave.

Warming up

Both phones and photography are forbidden during BSO performances, so any photos I take show pre-concert warmups or the hush of intermission. February in New England feels like an intermission between the thunderous timpani of winter and the peaceful piccolos of spring. In February we sit like a lone cellist, our fingers poised over silent strings we’re well-practiced and ever-eager to play, waiting.

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