How’s the weather


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.

Snowy backyard

Last night the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and today the sky is falling as snow: another day in New England. After the snow tapers, we’ll dig out our sidewalks, driveways, and cars, and tomorrow, the Patriots will parade through downtown Boston, victorious. These two things—digging out from a foot of snow and celebrating sports championships—are part of what it means to live in New England.

Snowed in

The rallying cry for the Patriots this year has been “Do your job,” a concise summary of Bill Belichick’s no-nonsense coaching philosophy. The motto “Do your job” seems particularly apt here in the Boston suburbs right now as we start cleaning up after another whopper of a storm. There’s nothing glamorous about snow shoveling, roof raking, or other winter chores: I’m guessing most folks would happily live their lives without ever once having to dig out a snow-buried car. But here in New England, doing your job means digging out your car, sidewalk, and driveway several times a year, every year.

Long icicle

This morning I woke before my alarm, checked my phone, and saw that Curry College had cancelled classes, so J and I slept an extra hour. But even on a snow day, we couldn’t sleep too late, as there are dogs to be taken out and in, dishes to wash, litterboxes to clean, cats to feed, and a diabetic cat to inject with insulin. “Do your job,” I think every morning when my feet hit the floor and I begin a routine of daily chores that’s become automatic, pulling on a faded Patriots hoodie whose cuffs are frayed from housework. Bill Belichick is famous for wearing a slouchy hoodie, the sleeves cut off without any eye to fashion. But why roll up your sleeves when you can simply do without them?

Inside looking out

“Do your job,” I thought this morning as I turned on my laptop to post an online equivalent of the work my students would have done in class today: snow may come and go, but the work of teaching and learning always remains. Regardless of the weather, the dogs still need to go out, the cats still need to be fed, and the blank page still waits to be written. In my Zen school, we talk about inside jobs and outside jobs. Your outside job is what you do for a living, whether you’re a football coach, college writing instructor, or housewife. Your outside job can change—you can switch careers, take a day off, or enjoy a snow day—but the inside work of keeping a clear mind always remains.

There used to be a sidewalk there

Just as “Boston Strong” was the perfect rallying cry for the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series run, “Do your job” is a perfect fit with New England sensibilities. New Englanders are renowned for their reserve, and Belichick’s reticent on-camera persona matches the local temperament. Why talk about your job when you can simply do it, regardless of what it is? If you have breath enough for chatter, you’re probably not working hard enough. In winter, after all, the snow piles as deep as the nights are long, so there’s little time to waste.

Snowy patio furniture

I take some version of this same picture every few years, after every major snowfall. In 2013, Nemo dumped 24 inches of snow on our backyard, and I posted a photo of our buried patio furniture. I shot today’s version this afternoon, while the snow was still falling, and when J took a preliminary pass snow-blowing our driveway, we’d gotten 18 inches, and Juno still isn’t done with us yet.

Front door view

I think I take these same shots over and over because every year, the transformation between “before” and “after” a major snowstorm is so arresting. When you look at a snow-filled yard, it’s difficult to tell how deep it is…but when you see one to two feet of snow on top of a table, you get a sense of how heavy a load everyone’s digging out from.

At a certain level, it’s difficult to envision 18, 24, or even more inches of snow: after the snow tops your boots, another inch or so doesn’t make that much difference. So while J has an official snow stick he uses to measure our backyard snow, I tend toward more comparative measurements: is the snow ankle-, calf-, or even beagle-deep?

Bring me inside now, please

That’s Melony the beagle in our backyard dog pen, which is all the further any of us ventured today. J cleared a path to and from the pen, and I shoveled a space inside for Melony and Cassie, our white German shepherd, to “do their business.” This photo shows Melony giving me her most plaintive “I’m done, please take me inside now” look.

Memorial Drive near MIT

We’ve had a relatively snow-free winter so far this season, but on Saturday we had a weekend nor’easter that dumped about five inches of snow on the Boston suburbs before changing to rain. I had a meeting at MIT on Saturday morning, so I took the T into Boston, then I walked over the Mass Ave bridge to Cambridge. Usually, there are plenty of pedestrians crossing the Charles River, but on Saturday morning it was just me, a few intrepid cyclists, and a handful of Lycra-clad runners muddling through the unshoveled snow. The mid-river view of the MIT skyline veiled in snow and fog was worth the walk.

MIT from Mass Ave bridge

At my meeting, most folks from the outlying suburbs–people who would have had to dig out their cars to drive into Boston–had stayed home, leaving those of us who could get to MIT by T, foot, or both. On the T ride to and from Boston, I noticed the wide range of winter footwear: rubber rainboots, leather hiking boots, quilted nylon boots with fur or flannel linings, and steel-toed work boots. The people riding the T on a snowy Saturday seemed to realize their own two feet are their most dependable all-terrain vehicle and dressed accordingly.

MIT snowman

After a relatively snow-free winter, we’re now hunkered down for a blizzard that could bring one to two feet of snow. It looks like the enterprising undergrads at MIT will be well-equipped to engineer more and bigger snowmen.

Scooby and Groucho

We’re in the midst of a winter storm, so the sky has been spitting all day: sometimes rain, sometimes sleet, and sometimes wet snow, a combination New Englanders call wintry mix. Now that it’s dark, I gauge the precipitation by the sound it makes on the windowpane: rain is a patter of mice feet, sleet is a tinkling chandelier, and freezing rain is a sizzle. Snow, of course, falls silently, but so far, we haven’t gotten many fluffy flakes, just a sludgy slop that falls like rain then congeals into clumps.

This is my Day Twenty-Six contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Frozen birdbath with fallen leaves

In New England, November is a month of all seasons. Last week, the temperatures soared into the 60s; this morning, our backyard birdbath was frozen with yesterday’s snow melt and a smattering of still-yellow maple leaves. Summer, winter, fall, or spring? There’s no need to choose in November, when you can experience an entire year’s worth of seasons in a single day, without even leaving your backyard.

This is my Day Fifteen contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Japanese maple with smudge of snow

Earlier this week, I showed you our Japanese maple tree on a foggy morning. Today brought a smudge of wet snow that clung to leaves and lawn but quickly melted from streets and sidewalks. After the sun emerged, the weight of melting snow claimed much of the maple’s foliage, leaving a bright red carpet underfoot.

Japanese maple in sun

By the time I left for campus, most of the sludgy snow had melted from my car, and I used my windshield wipers to clear away away November’s triple-threat of rain, snow, and fallen leaves.

This is my Day Fourteen contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

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