Friday, February 8, 2013

Phenology: Northern States Brace for Big Snow

Actually the Weather Channel's anticipatory hysterics about the approaching snowstorm look as if Canada is going to catch it too, but in the U.S. we have this perception that for Canada no snowstorm could possibly be considered news. Anyway, what's newsworthy about "Snowstorm Nemo" seems to be that it's expected to be a test of what's been done toward rebuilding after "Hurricane Sandy." Snow is not expected to fall in Virginia. Once again, other people get disasters; we get rain.

Mike Opelka's article is worth scrolling through for its pictures of a similar storm thirty years ago. Those who remember Michael Dukakis may appreciate a picture of him as a young man...and note what he's not doing.

Jim Macdonald's article is also worth reading. Hmm. Who are the audience for this post, exactly? Those who resemble then-Governor Dukakis thirty years ago, in a general way--young, strong, thick hair--normally have an instinctive feeling that snow, and snow days, are for going out and doing something with. Such as shovelling snow away from the sidewalks of people who are less active and healthy than we are. Sawing up fallen tree limbs is also fun, and then there's running errands for people who have been advised by their doctors not to go out in the snow. These activities give us an appetite for comfort foods like French Toast.

Since this web site seems to be stuck on the Republican side of things more often, these days, than we really want to be, let's pick up our theme: Fiscal Conservatives, Put Your Back Where Your Mouth Is. A little reminiscence may be in order.

Ten or fifteen years ago, Hyattsville, Maryland, got about two feet of snow. Officially I think it was less than two feet; what I remember is that our back stoop was 34" from the ground, and we couldn't see it out the window at all. My husband probably had multiple myeloma at the time, but hadn't started to feel it yet. Our residential neighborhood outside the city limits was on the third-priority list for official snow assistance efforts. We had, for reasons I never asked him to explain, three snow shovels, so we went out to clear a path. We looked at the street and were able to see tracks where the level of snow was much lower, where people had been driving on the snow. The snow had been compacted but had not yet frozen.  And since we were having fun, we said, "Well, for pity's sake," and started clearing the snow away before it turned into ice.

Both of us already had a few grey hairs here and there, but one is never too old to act childish about snow. By the time I started to feel tired, other people had noticed that fun was being had, and were out with their snow shovels too. We were able to clear the street in front of only three houses. Other people did the rest of the block.

Later the children went out and did creative things with the chunks of packed snow in their yards, but the adults all seemed to feel that we'd put in a day's work and could spend the rest of the day burning fallen oak limbs in our fireplaces, and sipping cocoa, and--if gluten-tolerant, anyway--eating French Toast. (You can buy gluten-free bread that will keep its shape as French Toast, if you really want it to, but personally I'd rather just pop corn.) We did these things all weekend long, with occasional breaks for exercise and snow-inspired childishness.

So then by the time the Washington Post, which we were then receiving on Sundays only, came to the door right on schedule, they'd already received a letter from some slob in some other suburb (name withheld out of compassion for other residents of his neighborhood) whining because, with all the higher priorities on their list, the city had not got a snowplow out to his door yet. Well, in order to have got this letter into a newspaper that had been printed on Saturday, he must have written it in time for the Friday mail. The letter did not mention any disability. For all I know this guy was whining, instead of out having fun like us, because he was spending every minute sitting beside a sick child's artificial respiration device, but he said nothing about it. He presented himself as the metropolitan area's biggest and party-poopinest wimp.

Urban snow thus gives us an opportunity to tell a difference between Real Conservatives and--well, one can't call them liberals--Whiny least up to age 40 or 50. Identification is not always as easy as it looks, because some young people with thick black hair have disabilities that don't show, and that particularly includes the ones who get hung up on their stereotypes about people with thin or white hair. However, as a general rule: Real Conservatives enjoy snowstorms. Wimps whine and wail for someone else to shovel them out.

Eventually, there's no specific cut-off age, at eighty-five Oogesti still has as much fun with snow as anyone else and at twenty-five one of my college buddies (who had rheumatic fever as a child) already had a pacemaker, but most of us are eventually advised by doctors to cut back on having fun with snow. This web site has not forgotten its physically disabled readers. We have now given you three nice snow-related stories to read, and we hope you're having fun...tending your fires, popping corn, making French Toast or fudge or whatever, singing nonsense songs, or perhaps, like Grandma Bonnie Peters, watching the rain fall on the hibiscus buds in Florida.