Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Blizzard

An interesting thing about snow is that it descends with an odd sort of parallax; The closer flakes fall faster than than the sleepy drifting ones further off, or so it seems. Wherever you stand. The closer they are, the more in a hurry. The snow beyond meanders peacefully, slowly, taking its time.

If you can focus beyond the floating white universe, if it's possible and if the snow isn't too dense, the snow flutters down in clear, vertical uniformity. Maybe a little more to the left or to the right in places, maybe a swirl here or there where the wind spins a pocket of the flakes about in some sort of dance, but they're all clearly compelled down at the same pace. But perspective is its own problem.

It's the darkest time of year. Even before the sun sets in the mid afternoon the cloud cover obscures the sun.

At two something AM my tiny Ford Escort sat stuck on a dirt road, tail lights illuminating the crisp reflective night time snow in red. Stuck as powdery snow dumped from the black sky. I'd bundled the sleeping children in the car after visiting with out-of-town family at my parents' house just as the snow began to fall, hoping to beat the storm. But no phone. I left that someplace else. The headlights, quickly covered over, showed only a dimensionless wall of white.


The two boys slept. The two year old and the four year old.

The smell of burning rubber and red lit steam billowed from the rear of the car from my efforts to rock it out of the bank. The bank. Not a bank. Ruts most of a foot deep going on and on. And only my own ruts from behind me, with those getting filled in. No ruts before me. Just snow. I pulled off my coat, sweating from trying to push the car and from digging behind the tires. My arms strained and ached. My hands slow from cold. My mouth tasted of iron from breathing hard. Each step in the drifts, a full lift of the leg, pulling it out of the snow.

I rested in the warm car, feeling the heat channel up out of my collar against my cold chin. I watched the boys from the rear view mirror, listened to their their soft breathing. The puffy flakes from the sky muffled the sound from all around. The only sound to be heard was our breathing and the engine and the collective sound of millions of snowflakes falling and falling and falling. I imagined the gas station up the road. Just a few miles by the highway junction. The McDonalds. Burgers. The kids would like that. The truck stop. Just a few miles up there. Almost absurd that it seemed so far off. I could probably even see it in the distance were it not for the blizzard.

A farm house. I'd burst into the farm house, a bundled child cradled in each, wind billowing my seal skin parka and snow flying through the door after me, my thick imaginary beard caked with ice...a kindly older lady would scream "oh my stars! Come in, come in! Warm your dear ones by the fire...Father! Draw them a hot bath, quickly now! Come...come, sit...have some brandy, you poor things!" And there we'd stay over the night. I'd shave and be a new man in the morning, I'd thank them kindly and ask how I could repay them, but they'd say their only payment needed would be to get an annual Christmas card photo of the dear little ones.

For all I could see a farm house could have been fifty feet off the road, or a thousand, through hip deep snow drifts. The previous year while hiking I lost a hat knit for for me by my wife, with the words knit into it "Hold On To Your Hat." I had gotten home and realized it was gone so I went back for it. I knew where it would be, where I had taken it off and thought I put it in my pocket, and made a bee line across the thigh deep snow drifts directly to where it would be, just 20 feet off the road in the State Park. I felt like my heart would explode by the time I got out there, and my muscles convulsed.

I turned on the Radio and listened to the weather advisory. Stay off the road, they urged. There's a blizzard. The national guard had been deployed. Hummers would be patrolling US 31 by early morning. I looked down at the gas again. Then back at the softly breathing boys.

No comments: