Thursday, December 27, 2018

Teasing Winter

Winter has been teasingly indecisive lately, leaving snow-lovers alternately giddy with powdery joy or grumpy with LOSS (Lack Of Snow Syndrome).

Red sky in morning... will it be rain or snow?
The season of cold and white made an early visit with snowfall at the end of October, enough of the white stuff to inspire skiers to dig out the boards and hike to ski what we like to call the fast grass – that skim layer of white barely covering the not-quite-frozen vegetation below.

October snow is not all that unusual around here. North Country kids know they’ll likely have to wear snow boots to trick-or-treat, and plan their Halloween costumes to allow for plenty of layers. It’s also not unusual for that October snow to melt quickly, which this year’s did.

But November was another story. Multiple dumps of heavy, sticky, lovely snow inspired some to nick-name this month of Thanksgiving “Snowvember.” Before it was time to feast with family, my kids had constructed multiple snow figures in the front yard, honed their snowball-throwing skills, and taken countless laps on the sledding hill.

The scene was complete winter wonderland, with snow-draped evergreens and glistening snow-covered fields. By the time Thanksgiving hit, it felt – and looked – like January. The skiing was fabulous, the plow had been put to work multiple times, and the cross-country tracks were set through the woods.

December, too, started with promise, although little new snow. Skiing on the mountain remained fabulous, and mainly cold temps meant snowmakers kept adding to the base. The track through the woods got a bit crusty, but it was still skiable. The heavy stuff finally melted off the trees, but the mountains remained winter white. Occasional flurries kept the landscape sparkly.

All was, if not calm, at least bright. Until last Friday. Just in time for the Winter Solstice, the rain came.

It didn’t just rain; it poured. For a while that morning, it poured through sunshine, and there was a rainbow arched across the sky. I love rainbows. But not in December. Small rivers of water flowed down the thick ice on the driveway. The kids’ snowy creations, which had lasted for weeks, dissolved into sad piles, then disappeared entirely. Green grass emerged in the yard, and the stalks of put-to-bed perennials poked out from the front garden.

“Great. We’re going to have a brown Christmas,” one of my children proclaimed glumly as they were sprung from school for winter break.

There is nothing so cantankerous as a snow-loving kid on a rainy day in December. At least the big warm up came when the kids were considerably distracted by the coming of Christmas; only the promise of anticipated presents could combat that disgruntlement.

As I watched the dreary weather through the bright Christmas tree lights, I knew the woods would soon be a mucky mess, and I wondered what was happening at the mountain.

I found out the next day, and it wasn’t pretty. Where a few days before all had been white, tinged with green boughs of fir trees, now there was entirely too much brown. All the natural snow was gone.

But where the snowguns had been at work during colder days – and nights – the trails were still covered, and I was thankful for the wonders of modern snowmaking and grooming. After two days of rain, the crews had put the mountain mostly back together, and the skiing Sunday was surprisingly pleasant. A cool down and a skim of snow had turned the summits to frosty white again, even if the yard remains devoid of snow.

The forecast looks like cold and a bit of snow in the near future. All’s well that ends well, right? Here’s hoping Winter is done teasing.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog, Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the December 28, 2018 issue of the Littleton Record.

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