January Thaw

Looking at the forecasts for tomorrow—temperatures in the 50’s with heavy rain—I recall times in the past and in my youth when the January thaw arrived.

Winters are long in the Northeast, even in these days of climate change. If the snow isn’t as deep or doesn’t arrive as early, the time is long anyway before the buds swell and the flowers bloom. One way to greet the Thaw is with gratitude. I can remember one such event when the smell of the earth suddenly filled the air and gave hope for an eventual spring. Heady stuff, that.

Of course rain on snow isn’t the best kind of thaw and as a matter of fact can even produce some dangerous situations. The Historical Society has photographs of downtown Brattleboro and the surrounding Connecticut and West River valleys when thaws cause massive ice jams and flooding of the fields and low areas near the rivers. The flood of 1869 stands out among those. That was April, true. But we don’t want that.

So far, no one is predicting anything so dire for tomorrow.

So I’ll hope that the ground isn’t left entirely bare, that the inevitable cold snap that follows won’t turn the roads into skating rinks, and that there are moments when the air seems lighter, less leaden, and we can turn back to winter a little refreshed anyway.

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Winter

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January in Newfane. In this era of unpredictable weather—no matter what you call it—that means everything from 50 degrees and raining to double digits below zero. Currently, my phone tells me it’s 28, with a low today of 9. That’s old-school, weather-wise. (Inner voice begins, “Why in my youth I remember ice-skating for Thanksgiving break, and piles of now taller than I was on either side of the narrow canyon to the street. . . “

Whatever the weather, there’s always something wonderful there. Even if it’s just sitting on the sofa with a good book, a glass of wine, and a roaring fire. Here’s to 2013, wherever you are!

A Quiet Place

IMG_3537_2Not long ago, a guest at Ridgeview commented that a passing car was an event. Being on a cul de sac does have its advantages. No through traffic. Most of the cars familiar, either as neighbors or routine passers by—the rubbish collection, someone from Direct Disk or Verizon. A delivery truck. I often like to sit on the deck overlooking the Rock River valley, gazing at the ridge opposite for which the property is named. Often all I hear is the river, some three quarters of a mile away. Occasionally a single car or truck on the Dover Road that follows the river will drift up, sounding like distant surf. Mostly it’s birds and the wind. How nice.

The same sort of thing is true at night. When you look up on a clear night, the stars are brilliant. There’s no light pollution, and the milky way is exactly that: not an abstract concept, but myriad stars, so many the blend into milky flow. And single stars so sharp they could almost rattle on a cold night.

It takes some getting used to. When I was small, I remember we had a boy from New York City stay with us for a week or two. He was tough, and I was frightened of his aggressive demeanor. But the first night, I heard him crying out. He was afraid of the silence, the total darkness. It was like nothing he had ever known. The same is true here for so many folks so accustomed to noise that silence is startling. But its worth the effort, getting used to silence again. For me it seeps in, and I take a little with me back to “real life” in the suburbs and cities where I spend most of my days. I feeds me for days. But I’m always glad to come back to Ridgeview.