12/09/2010

Hello Snow

On Monday, December 6, downeast Maine awoke to a thick blanket of snow, the first this year. The snow is wet and the ground underneath is muddy, making it difficult to plow. This means at SeaCat’s Rest a significant amount of dirt will end up on the neighbor’s lawn which will have to be raked away in spring. We got along without plowing so far (Tuesday). The trick isĀ  to charge down the road (our shared driveway is 1/4 mile long) until the drifted snow and upward slope begin to slow you down. Either you make it to the end, where the town plows have left a nice solid ridge of snow, and hope you don’t have to stop for traffic before busting through, or stop and back up to try again. Backing down the driveway in the tracks you made for 1/4 mile is not easy. Sometimes you get way off and end up stuck. The total whiteness of what you see in your rear view mirror is surreal after an autumn of browns and grays. (Technically, it is still autumn).

The snow brings another kind of change. There’s an undefinable shift in your perception of the outdoor world. It’s cleaner and dryer. The air is less penetrating and chilling. It’s brighter and prettier. When the sun emerges it’s almost too bright. You can fall down and it doesn’t hurt; your car can smash into heaps of snow without damage. It’s kind of fun. Also, there is a new found feeling of affection for your home as a warm, dry burrow. Cabin fever comes later.

The drifts mean getting plowed twice for one snowfall

Meanwhile, the ocean hasn’t heard the news. It is still doing its ocean thing. Rough, calm, tides, birds. It will have to be a very cold and calm day in mid to late January before the salty water ices over, and the cold would have to continue for days and weeks for any thickness to develop. This is rare, happening only about once every 7 years or so. So while Maine’s interior is solidly snowy, our coast can flip to rain as soon as the weather comes from the ocean. Sometimes the line between rain and snow is at our mailbox at the end of the driveway. But once the ice thickens on the water, we might as well be in Minnesota. The temps can go sub-zero in a big hurry, dashing gardener’s dreams of a mild temperate climate. It is this rapid and sudden drop which kills grapevines.

Last winter we had snow until January, and then nothing. I know this by looking at our plowing bills. It seems as soon as we’re in the snow mode, it’s over. Not the gray skies or cold rain or icy roads, just the snow. Maybe this year will be different.

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