Monday, January 19, 2009

Beautiful but Deadly

It seems that every time we have a whopping major storm, I am working. That means I get to drive in pretty horrible conditions, driving often behind the sanders and plows. But it also means I get to see some very impressive nature.
Last week I drove home in the quiet night under a full moon in a clear sky ringed with stars. I swear the January moon is the most beautiful. Its light lit the icicles hanging from every tree branch, and made the fields of snow glow blue. I stood on the roof (trusty ice chipper in hand as usual) and breathed the frigid night air as the moon rose higher above my head. The blue light that I associate with January lit the snow on the rooftops around me. Not the safest position in the world but I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
I drove to work in the storm yesterday, a good 3-4 inches already on the ground, and precious little plowing done. The snow came down thick and fast and the whole world was white. It was so fluffy and light when I shovelled out my car, just enough to get it out of the driveway.Hardly anyone on the road, but how gorgeous everything looked blanketed with white, pristine fields and high banks as yet unsullied by plows, footprints or anything else moving. Then I had my first little skid on the black ice beneath the unsanded snowy road, and realized how precarious my position on the road actually was. I saw a few cars that had skidded and one pretty bad accident on the other side of the road. Last night I drove home after the first snowstorm, and the trees were white and heavy in my headlights. There was more traffic than I am used to until I got to the windy country road I favour over the highway. Then it was quiet, dark, and cloudy. The lights of Wachusett gently lit the distance beyond my favourite field. I came home & shovelled a good nine inches, gave up on the driveway and just did the front & back walks, then the roof (again). It began snowing gently, soft flakes falling in the light of the streetlight, hushed, crisp and clean. This morning, after the second snow had ended, I again bailed out another 6 inches and headed off to work. A holiday, so they didn't bother to rush in getting the roads passable. As I came round one curve in Groton, off to my left, the foothills before Mt Monadnock were etched sharply in a way I had never seen before. Each tree, mostly fir, had its cap and crown of white snow on dark green, and each stood out in sharp relief in detail I could not have imagined at such a distance. But there it was. I had to tear my eyes away to negotiate the curve, knowing that the next time I passed this way, it would long since have melted and turned back into shades and striations of green. The long country road that serves me as a shortcut is deadly in bad weather, but it's my favourite time to drive it. The kettle pond, frozen over and white, the horse farm whose equine residents stand blanketed, blowing steam from their nostrils and nudging one another- all sights I hate to miss. Usually a lone redtail hawk wheels down in hopeful search of some small prey moving, or a murder of crows bursts from the oaks beside the road. And my eye photographs these moments to keep forever even as my mind focuses on steering into the skid, staying in the track, white-knuckling the wheel. Now that I have an ipod, I let the shuffle treat me to a random ear candy flow of music I like with no commercial interruptions as the soundtrack to each momentous commute (and I haven't even begun the Irish playlist Ceol Mor yet!). And then I pass another accident...a car well off the road into the woods, and the tow truck man wearily shovelling a path to get it out.
Always the most beautiful moments in nature are the deadliest. And, might I add, the most attractive in many ways. I have always been especially partial to storms. One of my earliest memories is a hurricane. In the eye of the storm, my dad bundled us into our yellow slicker raincoats and walked us down the beach, down to Kelly's Landing and back. Sailboats and dories lay battered and strewn on the beach, torn from their moorings by the force of the gale. I was so little and so overwhelmed by the destruction and damage I saw, but I never applied the thought that the forces of destruction could apply to me, because I was with my Daddy. It started to rain again as we raced the storm back home. It was exhilarating, and I never forgot it. Years later, we repeated the scene, my sister, her husband, my best friend and I, and raced the storm home again, soaked to the skin and scolded roundly by my mom. Having watched multiple videos of stormwatchers being swept away, I know now how stupid it is to put oneself at risk to witness the power, the majesty and the terrific horror of nature. And still, standing on the roof in a foot of powder, knocking icicles off the eaves and surveying the world from on high, I also totally understand it.

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