Thursday, February 11, 2010

The other side of the snow story

In my last post, I waxed poetic about how beautiful the snowy landscape is. I'm a romantic at heart, so it's by instinct that I choose to write first and foremost about the lovely views presented by a snow storm. But I have a practical side, too, and am not immune to the down sides of such a weather event. It's not all about Snowflake Fairies and enchanted forests here, you know.

When I mention to my parents that I'm excited about a potentially snowy forecast, they think I'm a little crazy. I can't blame them, really. I don't have a sidewalk to worry about clearing like they do. But I do have a crazy steep driveway with a switchback that can be treacherous or even impassable if it's too slushy or icy, even with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Also, living on rural back roads means that the township street-cleaning crews will get to you... eventually. Just don't expect clear roads when you leave for work in the morning. And let's not forget the joyful exercise of clearing snow and ice from your vehicle if you happen to not have a garage in which to house it. Oh yes, and frozen locks and doors on the cars, too - that's always fun.

Then there's the matter of storm damage to trees, power lines, and homes. Icy and/or windy conditions add to the potential for disaster. When the howling wind wakes me up in the middle of the night, I set a battery-powered backup alarm clock in case the plugged-in version loses juice. This could happen any time of year, actually, but it seems a more likely possibility when ice- or snow-weighted branches are tossing around in the breezes, poised to bring down a power line at any moment.

With any major snow storm comes inconveniences, such as closed schools (although that's no inconvenience to the students!), closed businesses, delayed or canceled flights, the aforementioned lack of electricity. In general, things just don't flow as smoothly as we are used to them flowing, and in this face-paced, give-it-to-me-now world of ours... well, stuttering steps and hiccups in the system tend to make people cranky.

Oh, and did I mention the cold? When the temps hover around freezing and the wind doesn't blow, it's not so bad. But the one-two punch of cold and windy - well, honestly, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of dressing in layers. Every. Single. Day. (My office is a little on the cold side.) I'm tired of walking around outside like some mechanical penguin, taking steps that are shorter than usual because I'm trying not to fall on the ice. And don't get me started on the constant "hat hair."

What about the animals? I always feel bad for the cows and horses that we drive past each day on our way to work, standing there chewing their cud while snow accumulates on their backs. I can see some of the barns that would house them if they chose to get in from the weather, but they remain outside, so they must not mind it much. If only I had such thick skin (or hair). I'm sure many wild creatures are equipped to handle the extremes of the seasons, but when things get too extreme, some will perish. I heard on the radio just this morning about manatees and alligators that have died in parts of Florida because the warm water they inhabit got too cold during a visit from Jack Frost in January.

Ultimately, it's such harsh extremes in weather (not just snow, but earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.) that remind us that we do not have as much control over things as we think we have. The weather is one of the most tangible reminders of the power and presence of nature in our lives. And even though it can cause inconvenience, loss and tragedy, its beauty remains undeniable. That's the part I can't ignore.


KaHolly said...

Wow! That was quite the 180 degree turn! But you are absolutely right. I keep saying that the only nice thing I can say about snow is that it's pretty. Like the photo you posted today. Oh, my, goodness. That's a beauty! And, Heather, I won't mention hat hair! Great post. ~karen

Richard King said...

It looks too cold for an Australian like me! The other extreme. I just came back from the far north of Western Australia. So hot and humid that you are soaked in sweat in five minutes outside! If you don't drink a litre of water every hour, you will probably pass out by the end of the day.

Heather said...

Karen - Kind of a jekyl and hyde set of posts, eh?

Richard - Wow, I've almost forgotten what humidity feels like! And heat? Won't be feeling that for another couple of months yet. You be careful out there.

The Early Birder said...

Hi Heather. Well you certainly have a much tougher time over there. A little bit of snow in the UK and everything comes to a standstill! Please stay safe. FAB.

Heather said...

Frank - Things came to a standstill over here for a little while, but we're working our way through it. Thanks for the wishes of safety - we'll do our best!

RuthieJ said...

It's been quite a memorable winter hasn't it Heather?
I know lots of people around here will be happy to see spring finally arrive and the snow all melted.

Heather said...

Ruthie - Yes, memorable indeed. Luckily we didn't have all the ice like we did last year. Now THAT was bad news. Compared to that, the snow is nothing. Even so, I will not be sad to see the white stuff melt away.