Winter 2015: time to withdraw gracefully

Listen to this article

The poet Edith Sitwell once wrote, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” Yeah right, Edith. I used to like poems about the beauty of winter, until I experienced the winter of 2014-15 in New England. Now, here at the beginning of March with three feet of snow still on the ground, it feels like a verse from Edgar Allan Poe might be more appropriate – something dark, cold, and a more than a bit depressing.

The author’s horse Nello braving the cold temps.
The author’s horse Nello braving the cold temps.

We have experienced a record 104.1 inches of snow here in Boston this winter (at this point we should go for it and beat 1995-96 record snowfall of 107.6 inches). Snow banks line the thin slivers of roadway available in our neighborhood thirteen miles north of Boston – it’s even worse in the city itself, where folks are setting out beach chairs, trash cans, and box fans to hold their tiny snowy parking space while they are at work. The snow along my sidewalk is now a silvery gray — dirty and droopy-looking. Our dogs have learned to “do their business” quickly on a carved-out area near our deck, and even they hustle back indoors, anxious for the warmth of their puffy beds. We all have snow-dementia, snow depression, snow anxiety, and any and all other snow-related mental disorders you can think of. Our local weathermen are the worst — they amble onscreen with loosened ties, puffy eyes and a limp pointing arm; what is there to say at this point? “Severe Storm Warning” sounds so redundant and trite, somehow.

Plow drivers have made out like bandits financially this winter, but they are so tired at this point that other drivers need to beware when sharing the road with them. More than one plow driver — sometimes just a pick-up with an attachment — has almost plowed into me (pun intended) as I creep through town. I’m out there on the road a lot these days — I am not afraid to drive anymore in the snow. It’s funny what weeks of snow does to one’s courage; I’m so anxious to get out of my house (which is clogged with snow boots, snow pants and heavy coats, which we no longer have the will to hang up but just drop them where we shed them) that I throw caution to the wind and carry on as if it were mid-May, listening to Calypso music on Sirius XM while I dream of a big happy sun in the sky and balmy southern climates.

Speaking of which — if you are a friend of mine and you post a picture of yourself on Facebook in your bathing suit, on some exotic island, holding an umbrella drink and grinning while seagulls swoop lazily in the distance, I will un-friend you. That’s just cruel.

The author’s husband Fred shoveling roof
The author’s husband Fred shoveling roof

My son Matt works in Boston, and he laughs at the signs business owners have posted on the sidewalk warning of falling icicles. Firstly, these icicles dangling from roofs and gutters are huge — some as long as eight feet, and several feet in diameter. It would be like being hit on the head by a piece of space junk — guaranteed death upon impact. A warning scrawled on a piece of cardboard with a sharpie doesn’t seem to be sufficient warning, somehow. The funny part is — where’s he going to walk? The choices are: the sidewalk, hopefully shoveled, or street — certain injury from either slipping on thick ice or crazed, sleep-deprived city plow driver. I keep waiting for news of the first icicle-death, somewhere in New England. I hope that news never comes, of course — but I told Matt to keep his chin up — and wear a bike helmet as he walks from the subway to the office.

The sheer amount of snow is blinding — driving along the highway your eyes sting from the brightness reflected off the snow’s surface. Cars I pass look as if they have been used as vehicles of war — muddy, dirty, with more than a few bumps and dings. I have a white car, so that is working out well.

Okay, winter, release your hold on us. Withdraw gracefully, like a snow maiden who retires to shore up her strength for the next time she is summoned, when the temperature is low, and the next cold winds of fall blow. As for me, I just bought flowers at the market, and I am flipping through my new spring catalogs. I have faith that winter cannot last forever — and if it does, I’m Boca-bound. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Edith Sitwell!

(All photos by Deirdre Reilly)