Friday, February 26, 2016

Going With The Flow

While I lamented the bare – and barely frozen – ground following the last in a series of winter rainstorms, my kids seemed happily oblivious to the utterly, depressingly un-snowiness of the landscape. They are winter-loving, snow fort-building, ski-fanatical kids. But rather than dwell on the lack of snow, they seem to intrinsically embrace the extended daylight that creeps into mid-February days and the subsequent opportunity for longer outside play.

Perhaps kids are simply better at going with the flow, rolling with the punches, living in the moment, looking on the bright side – pick your idiom. On the afternoon after a steady rain had washed every trace of winter from our yard, while I stewed over this no-snow season, the kids eagerly ran outside after school. They bypassed the pile of long neglected snowshoes on the front porch and the sleds leaning forlornly against the house, climbed past the plow left idle many weeks, and pulled their bikes from the depths of the garage.

Up our long driveway of frozen gravel and slim rivulets of ice they rode, visiting some of their favorite warmer-weather haunts in the yard, places that are normally buried in snow by the middle of February. A few days later, we were all back on snow – the manmade kind – to ski. And we’ll ski every day we can for as long as that manmade stuff sticks to the trails.

Where last winter seemed like a mini Ice Age of sustained subzero temperatures, allowing us to become acclimated to the constant cold, this winter has been an ongoing test of our ability to go with the ever-changing flow of the weather and its consequences.

We have skied on a rainy day when the wind blew so hard the raindrops came sideways: tiny, semi-frozen pellets pelting us mercilessly. We have skied in warm rain and on the days after, when the temperature drops and the skiing surface hardens to something resembling choppy pond ice. We have skied, very occasionally, in fresh snow. A couple weeks ago we braved wind chills of 40 degrees below zero to ski the nicest conditions we’ve had all year. The snow that day was soft, super-grippy, and utterly carve-able. The sun was out, and there were friends to ski with. My kids didn’t balk at the thought of skiing on such a frigid day. They just went with the normal Sunday morning flow: breakfast, ski boots, chairlift.

Two days later it was 40 degrees above zero and raining. Again. The day after that storm I returned home from coaching aspiring ski racers, frustrated by the unwintryness of this season and weary after a few hours of coaxing small children down trails coated in impenetrable ice.
I longed for tall snowbanks and frosted trees, the soft crispness of winter white, the magnificent quiet of new snow.

Instead I found the green tips of daffodils sprouting from the flower bed next to the house and muddy puddles that have been through so many freeze-thaw-freeze cycles in the past few weeks that I’ve lost track. This winter has seemed like one long April, when Ma Nature keeps us guessing as she switches the seasons in a one-step-forward-two-steps-back sort of manner.

Weather is notoriously unpredictable in any season, of course, although we keep trying to calculate which punches will be thrown next. I have found myself this winter checking the forecast with a sense of both urgency and dismay. Often the hopeful snowflakes predicted three days out become dreaded raindrops by the time we reach them.

It seems winter may well pass us by entirely this year. Perhaps it will arrive in April when even the snow-lovers among us are ready for spring. I’m trying to follow my children’s lead, to embrace whatever the weather throws at us, to be flexible in selecting outside activities, to just go with the flow. But I miss the snow, and next winter seems so far away.

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 February 26, 2016 edition of the Littleton Record.

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