Thursday, December 31, 2009

White Christmas (unless it rains before Friday)

 We don’t seem to get many heavy snows before Christmas. It takes a combination of rain coming up the coast to meet a mass of cold air coming from the Kentucky. If it rains in Atlanta and the low heads northeasterly we might get some snow in the higher elevations and more often in western North Carolina. This time we took on in the chin as the path went straight towards Roanoke and then Richmond and then Norfolk and Washington, D.C.

It was quite pretty. If you didn’t have to drive in it. I didn’t quite make it home but I was fortunate enough to leave the truck at an acquaintances. It seemed to take forever to get it out of his yard this afternoon. But, retrieving the truck is, I suppose, minor. Some people spent hours stuck on the interstate. The traffic in Johnson City Friday night was crushing and angry. With I-40 closed between Asheville and Knoxville, rerouted along I-26 through Johnson City, part of detour is over Sam’s Gap which is no fun in the rain and probably dangerous in any snow. Plus manage to survive the down ski run from Sam’s Gap to Erwin on into Johnson City only to get stuck in a six-hour snow jam.

We got several inches and the trees took it badly. The neighbor’s large maple split in the middle and tore off a corner of the roof. Both of my maples were drooped to the ground. A newly-planted cypress was bent in half (but recovered nicely with a little help.) A couple of whacks with a broom handle or a good brushing by the broom on the leaves of the red oak allowed it to straighten up. Of course the very tops were curved over but nothing so far was broken. Later I took the broom and began knocking snow the lower limbs and every tree around the house stood up a bit straighter like shouldering off a great load.

Late Friday and all morning Saturday one thing I noticed from this storm and others, is the quiet and the brightness without sun. Snow dampens the sound. And since everything (!) is reflecting light the whole neighborhood glows. The brown outline of the trees with a white paint and gray background is somehow beautiful but when you take pictures comes out flat.

I have two feeders and they’re both very busy. There are lots of individual birds but not a very broad collection of species. Mostly titmouse, chickadee, cardinals, and white-breasted nuthatch. I saw two woodpeckers: downy, red-bellied. And heard a Pileated woodpecker. Heard jays and crows. Missed any sparrows or the towhee but I bet they were around.

While in my back lot, filling one of the feeders, I noticed how quiet and serene my little tree lot had become. With so much snow making the limbs larger, the place was compressed and disorienting. The familiar lines of sight were gone. The little path to and from the feeder was changed because limbs bent in the way. All these little alterations made my copse of trees more interesting and more beautiful.

Of course, in the back yard on that same trip to the feeders, I stepped in a hole and twisted my ankle. I could see the headline “City Man Dies in Back Yard in Sight of House.” One of the best stories for us city folks out in the woods, even if those woods are in my back yard, is Jack London’s “To Build A Fire.”

But, weather in this part of the world changes quickly. We’ll have a warm spell, the snow will melt, and then another round by Christmas. Maybe I’ll get a start on the Christmas break  by going home before the traffic gets bad and just stay up to watch it snow.


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