There’s a huge black spider in my bathtub.
This is a good thing because it means this mother of all winters is really going to be over any minute. I look for that guy every year.
The ice is not only out of the Retreat Meadows but the inch-thick frozen puddle of water is out of my shower. In January while my husband shorted out the hair dryer trying to thaw out the shower drain, I looked up the topic in a book that claimed to deal with country plumbing. The first line was something to the effect of “If temperatures above 32 degrees are predicted, the problem will take care of it self.” I snarled out loud to the book that temperatures around here hadn’t been above the freezing mark since August.
We did something I hadn’t remembered doing since child hood: We hung a blanket at the bottom of the stairs to keep what little heat we had from being wasted on the upstairs. We drew curtains wherever they hung. We burned six cords of wood and a tank of oil.
I discovered by chance two methods to staying warm: keeping on your lap a cat and/or a laptop computer. Shawls and afghans help too.
I considered writing my own book on life at 20 degrees and below. The first topic would be how to dress for the cold weather while inside the house. It would include my own fashion statement of cotton tights, wool socks, triple fleece sweat pants, an old pair of boots, a T-shirt, a turtle neck, a wool sweater, my husband’s fleece vest and an occasional wool cap. All undergarments (cotton) should be warmed in the microwave before putting next to the skin.
Bed-time attire consists of lots of flannel topped off with a down comforter. My daughter in Seattle (where they don’t know the meaning of the word cold) made and sent me this sack-like thing that was filled with rice. Four minutes in the microwave and you slide it up and down the sheets. The bed is then warmed to a reasonable temperature for those first long moments before body heat kicks in.
What did our forbears do in the cold without microwaves?
Soup will keep you warm: making it longer than eating it. My conscience wouldn’t let me just put pots of boiling water on the stove for a quick warm-up, so I made buckets of soup out of anything that could handle a good sustainable boil. Baking at any time meant a little warmth from leaving the oven door open when whatever was done being cooked.
On Christmas day it snowed and it was so beautiful. My grandchildren were here from New York and they squealed with delight as they rode their plastic sleds through billowy drifts. It was a dream come true. Then it snowed a few more times, and the grandchildren came back to build a real igloo. What fun the snow was!
But then it wouldn’t go away. The sun came out but had little effect at 5-10 degrees. Then more snow came. It stopped being beautiful. Squirrels looked in our windows from the piles of snow up against the house.
My brother in Haines, Alaska, spent good money calling to taunt me with tales of “such a mild winter.” In Alaska this winter it wasn’t snowy and it wasn’t very cold. They even had to move the location of the starting point or the Iditarod because of lack of snow. And he was talking daffodils months ago.
At the end of March we visited another brother in sunny southern Florida. For the two weeks we were there the weather reports from New England were glorious. There was warmth and sunshine and the snow was melting by the minute. Good planning, we thought, spring would be well established by the time we got back.
That was not to be. The first two weeks of April, it snowed and iced and blew and froze. The fields, which had offered a glimpse of actual grass, were again covered in an unblemished blanket of white.
Last week I wandered through local nurseries, not only looking longingly at plants that can’t be put in the ground yet but enjoying the warmth and blessed humidity of those buildings.
I know spring will come. I know I won’t hear the dreaded sound of the plow truck down shifting in the middle of the night for months and month.
I heard peepers last night.