Yes, it’s Winter here in the northeast United States, and although the season has been notably kind to us until now, she has finally gone into Full Queen Bitch mode. Although some people persist in characterizing Winter as an Old White Man, those of us who have lived through a few bad ones know better. Winter is Female. And She is Not To Be Trifled With.
The cold spell that was her first gambit wasn’t nearly as bad as some that I wish I hadn’t experienced. Once, in a December still within human memory, the temperatures never rose above fifteen below zero during the day, for an entire month, and at night regularly dipped down to thirty below. Cold like that kills: Misty the horse went out of our barn one morning dragging a foot as she walked; by night she was dead, and we could not even bury her because the ground was frozen too hard.
But this winter we’ve yet to reach temperatures significantly below zero, and have hardly seen single digits. The snow held off almost entirely until last week. The fifteen inches we got at that time was bothersome but not an extreme hardship, as it was feather-light, halfway between powder and fluff.
But the two inches that we got overnight Wednesday? That was a different story. Two inches doesn’t look so bad on the ground, compared to fifteen or more, until you try to shovel it and discover that it’s saturated with two more inches (at least) of Freezing Rain. This is the kind of snow that makes you feel your age, no matter what your age is; and quite suddenly you begin to understand that you are not as young as you used to be. That’s the message that Lady Winter delivered to me yesterday: “I’m coming for you, and you can’t escape me forever.” Death comes not with a scythe, but with a freezing thick coating of white.
If you’re casting around for something to read this winter, I would heartily recommend Robertson Davies’ “Deptford Trilogy,” comprised of FIFTH BUSINESS, THE MANTICORE, and WORLD OF WONDERS — in which the lives of at least four people are forever changed by One Single Snowball. Actions Have Consequence, after all: this is a lesson that the human race never seems to learn. The second book is the real climax of the series, with WORLD OF WONDERS acting as a pleasing, prolonged epilogue. If you enjoy it, Davies was a prolific writer who found real magic in life and left many volumes of it behind for us when he left.