Thursday, January 17, 2013

Phenology: Snow and Southerners

What we've actually seen, going into the fourth day now, is rain. Lots and lots of rain. Mostly a slow, steady drizzle that sometimes seems to be about to stop, but doesn't, really, because the cloud is still hugging the mountain so closely that little drops precipitate out here and there, mostly when cold air hits warm humans, so that even people who don't have colds have little raindrops dripping off the ends of our noses.

Personally, I think even snow would be preferable to any more of this rain, but most of my neighbors don't agree with me. The possibility of a hateful winter rain turning to snow causes knicker-twisting, runs on supermarkets, and cancellations of just about everything. People flock to the supermarket to stock up on the food they will need for the next month because there is a slight theoretical possibility that the supermarket might close too.

Maintaining this web site has not been as easy this winter as it was last winter. No more obscure, little-used computer center just seven miles away; it was closed for lack of use. No more blogging from the home of the Republicans who physically hosted this web site last winter; their student graduated and they no longer have Internet service at home. One of them has continued to sponsor this web site to a limited extent, and suggested, "Couldn't you work from the gun shop?" Of course not; the computer at the gun shop is almost constantly in use.

Gate City has a nice little cafe with WiFi, and the whole idea of having a laptop was to be able to spend Tuesdays in the cafe hosting a Community Blog, and the Yahoo problem seems to have been fixed...but I'm not taking the laptop out in this rain.

So I arranged to spend three afternoons a week in scenic Nickelsville, Virginia. This is a twelve-mile drive; I have to schedule a "call bus" trip out there and then wait for a relative to drive back.

The scenery along the Nickelsville Highway, one of those old state highways that's actually just a two-lane road, is beautiful. One of the more eye-catching features is the Copper Creek Bridge, which spans deep, steep banks between two long hills. Currently one of the two lanes on this bridge is being rebuilt, and vehicles are taking turns using the side of the bridge that's still usable.

As I packed up to leave the computer center yesterday the lady who opens and closes the building said, "If it starts to freeze or snow tomorrow, I'm going home. I have to get across that bridge before it's covered with snow."

During the next eighteen hours I thought very seriously about calling to cancel the bus. Nobody should have to drive across the Copper Creek Bridge, in its current condition, on ice or snow. I didn't want either the lady's or the bus driver's time to be wasted...but I'm glad the bus didn't show up. I hope nobody else hydroplanes down one of those long hills and into an oncoming vehicle, either.

Meanwhile, back here in Gate City, there's nothing on the ground but water, temperatures are nowhere even close to freezing, and if the Great and Terrible Snow does arrive as predicted it's supposed to start around sundown...but schools have been closed, and the computer center is full of children, because all the schools in the county have to be closed if any school is, and nobody wants a school bus to be on the Copper Creek Bridge even in rain actually.

Dang. Will I ever get into the Bill Reading Marathon? (Some of you are asking. The computer is giving me two distinct pictures of you readers. People who discover this site on Google are primarily looking for animal pictures, obscure book reviews, recipes, and miscellaneous chick lit. People who read regularly are primarily reading the political stuff.) I don't know, but hello, I am a Southerner, despite my late lamented husband being a Canadian and my very active mother having grown up in the North. The thought of snow has been uttered aloud. I'm supposed to go into a flutter, if not a flap, rush to the supermarket, then go home and sit by the fire. I look out the window at the dark sky--it's 1:15 p.m. and it looks as if it were 6 p.m.--and think that sitting by the fire sounds like a good idea.

Plus, that stream along the road that I described as looking murky by daylight, but like pearl at night? It is solid white water all the way, now, far over its banks, and the last time Grandma Bonnie Peters tried to call me I couldn't hear her above the roar of this little branch creek, which is now bigger than some things called rivers normally are.

During the first cold snap Iris, the calico kitten who has been fighting rhinotracheitis so hard she's forgotten to grow bigger than her siblings, decided she liked lying in front of the hot-air fan. She started coughing piteously whenever I saw her out on the porch, until she got close to the hot-air fan, when she stopped coughing and got busy arranging my hands and knees in the most convenient position for her to snooze on. Unfortunately the hot-air fan died early Tuesday morning. I rushed into town on Tuesday--in the rain, no laptop--and bought a ceramic heater from Quillin's Hardware instead, and I will say it's considerably more efficient than any space heater I've owned during the last fifteen years. For the first time in a long time, not only does the room heat up so that I want to use the thermostat feature, but the thermostat feature actually works without generating a power surge that endangers the computer. I am pleased. Now, for tonight's project, I plan to let Iris meet the ceramic heater; I think it will convince her to stop trying to cough and focus on growing up.

Famous Last Words, you say? Will Iris decides she likes a heater efficient enough to curl her fur? I'll report on this as soon as the computer center opens up again. My time's not up, and only one kid is waiting, but the librarian has just declared a Snow Emergency and started shutting down this building.