I love the feel of the outdoors right after a snowstorm has stopped. There’s something about the look of the snow piled up untouched, the branches bowing with their newly accumulated weight, the wind having calmed down and the light creating the kind of blue-gray shadow effect that highlights the crisp outline of everything.

We got a foot overnight, just as predicted, which is just the way you want it because it’s such a letdown when all sorts of weather advisories and winter storm watches are heralded and nothing materializes. So the meteorologists got it right this time. It was the kind of morning when you just want to cozy up, wrapped in pajamas and robe, with a second pot of coffee at hand so you could catch up indulgently on all the things you wish you could normally do indoors – like doing nothing and spending extra time together, with the crossword, or playing with the cats, and knowing that the whole day will be spent digging out and going nowhere.

Last night, just before the snow was slated to begin, I put out two tubular bird feeders and within minutes they had drawn activity. “They’ve remembered,” my wife, Jane, said. She was referring to our normal practice of putting bird feed out, though this year it got delayed. And while I wasn’t sure that the birds that came – juncos, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers – were literally “the same” birds that used to come, the trait of species remembrance made enough sense to me that I was content to know we had met their needs and this was their way of thanking us. By fattening up a little on the eve of a storm that their amazing little bodies surely knew was coming.  

I bundled up, carefully deploying light layers of clothing knowing that I would quickly warm up and needed to be careful not to overheat. From my work in golf I have acquired a very good collection of waterproof rain pants and various other outerwear and light sweaters. The hard part would simply be the physical labor of moving the snow – or some of it, anyway. At my age I am reluctant to make snow shoveling into vigorous exercise. Too risky.

I’m fine with various power tools – mowers, chain saws, a pole saw, hedge clipper, edger – but draw the line at a snow blower for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that I’m normally on the road a lot in winter and it’s not the sort of equipment my wife is eager to work. Besides, we live at the bottom of a 170-foot long driveway. So for the 18 years we’ve been here we’ve contracted out with a neighborhood snowplow guy. We’re fine digging out from the house to the driveway, however. Beyond that, my standard post snow job is clearing the roof of our house (well, part of it, anyway) with an extendable, 18-foot long roof rake.

Of course that’s a little clumsier to operate than it used to be for all sorts of physical reasons that start adding up. But I like the feel of the stretch and pull, and if done in moderation it’s a great workout.

We live in an odd little corner of metro-Hartford, just beyond the normal horizontal sprawl of suburbia. Up here, there are protected state woodlands on three sides and a river gorge behind. Electricity comes from a nearby substation that serves the eleven houses in our little world.

Too often, however, trees come down on the power lines, or a squirrel gets overly inquisitive by a transformer and ends up creating a shortage. That’s when I’ll hear from my wife the one call of the wild I dread.

“Power’s out.”

It happened again this morning, interrupting our winter idyll and finally convincing me it was time to get the house outfitted with a generator. I’m not sure exactly what that will entail, other than considerable expense and much waiting time for delivery and installation. But between the food in the freezer we’d like to keep and the need not to suffer through yet more days of being without heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer and Zoom for a few hours a day, I now see the logic. So I am relenting, and we will start the process.

Meantime, I am happy to report that the sweetest call of the wild yet has just now resounded through the house. Once again, it’s my wife’s lyric tone, this time upbeat and relieved.

“Power’s back on.”

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This article has 4 comments

  1. Brian Kerns Reply

    Enjoyed this read, Brad. Sounds idyllic but slightly reminiscent of the setting in The Shining. So keep your wits about you friend. We don’t want any “…He
    eeeeeeerrrree’s JOHHNNY!” moments 😉

  2. Theresa Stotler Reply

    Brad, I heard that Genrac has orders of 3,000 a day but can only produce 1,000, do not delay.

  3. Bradley Klein Reply

    Mike, in my haste to write and post i forgot to reference one of the most compelling accounts of harsh winters that would be of relevance to your life in the Omaha area – Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers!” (1913) includes some vivid tales of what it takes to get through brutal snows and winters.

  4. Michael Gallner Reply

    Brad,

    Your words are so elegant. I share many of your thoughts on the snow. My significant other has been amassing bird seed for her myriad of feeders right here in the city of Omaha. Ironically, she purchased and installed a small commercial generator for the identical reasons stated. She considers it to be one of the best purchases she has ever made. Take care of yourself, my friend.

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