Friday, February 28, 2014

Shoveling winter doldrums away


    The thermometer indicated 22 degrees as I skipped out the front door. I looked around nervously not knowing how to act. It must be that Mother Nature has pulled a fast one.
    Losing hope is a sign of defeat, and I am not going to let this winter’s weather bring me down — just over.
     What’s all the fuss about? I’ve seen outstanding nature photographs posted, snowboarded in my dreams at Sochi and I haven’t drifted into the median to date — fingers crossed.
      I am oriented to winter as anyone else living in the Northeast. I have the right all-wheel car according to Consumer Reports, and it plows through mounds of white stuff effortlessly. I invest heavily in thermal underwear, waterproof my boots monthly and love to snowshoe on the property for the challenge of making the second tracks — the deer have an early morning head start.
     Snowplow drivers do a professional job with the roads, and when the snow comes out of nowhere, I give them a little slack if I am on slippery highways.    
      This season I’ve just about had it, though.
      I put on multiple layers of clothing and I get smacked in the face by frigid morning air more days than not. Shoveling snow and cleaning off cars I do like a robot while muttering aloud to any wildlife within earshot. Most creatures get out of my way —humans, too — when I am on a mission to get my chores done before my fingertips get frosty.
      Pushing snow in the driveway has its mental benefits, too. I think about my writing projects and the award-winning book waiting for me inside.  
      I know for sure that I have built up my muscles better than gym workouts. I go there, too, but then again, I hear the complaints and grumbles of malcontents on the treadmills pounding away their miseries like stakes into the ground — except it’s frozen earth they are excavating.
     “Snowbirds” are keeping quiet. I am not getting the usual communication rubbing it in about the temperatures, and if I do, there is more sympathy for my plight as if I have been misguided living here in the first place.
     “Different strokes for different folks”: my standard reply for those who insist on an answer:      
     I don’t care what hardy folks say about this winter, and how it reminds them of their beloved childhoods in Western New York. Their dads would shovel so that they could get out of second story windows like sacks of potatoes being dropped.
      I remember those storms myself, except they were of the coastal variety, and somehow like everyone else, I endured. Or I should say, my parents trained me up in getting to where I had to go without excuses. I walked to school (not very far) and kept decent attendance in elementary school.
     When I came to SUNY Geneseo as a freshman without winter boots, I had no clue where I thought that I was going to be spending the next four years. An idealistic teen such as me didn’t have much of a fascination with “lake effect” phenomena.
     My needs were basic — getting to class, the cafeteria and up the hill for any entertainment I could find — not that there was much other than the Riviera Theatre, the soda fountain and a couple watering holes. 
      It didn’t take long before snow stayed on the ground for weeks on end, and my orientation to Western New York winters came faster than my first English paper was due.
     I went uptown and purchased sturdy boots, too. I remember walking back down to my dorm realizing that I was now a true Western New Yorker, and I could brag to folks back home how I mushed through the worst of conditions to get a college education. (I checked back in my early diary to my college years, and Western New York had less than significant snowfalls.)
     Occasionally, we had a snow day on campus, and as students still do today, cafeteria trays — gloom and doom memos from the stern dean warned about returning stolen property — and any other sliding equipment was put into action on the hills with wild abandonment.
      Rochester is on the list of the “toughest towns in America” according to bustle.com. The winter weather has affected many different parts of the country, and left a few paralyzed to deal with it. Cities in the south have shut down because of snow and ice, but here in Rochester, it’s business as usual. To create the list, bustle used the amount of snow cities get, in comparison to how long cities wait to close schools.
      One reader of this column told me that she has ditched white bread and milk for rock salt — if she can find it at the store. Even our area supply is dwindling, and a lot has been trucked to the lower part of the state. Wine and whiskey have a way that satisfies another reader’s requirements for adequate peace of mind.
     Puny Phil didn’t get it this winter, I went back to the Farmers Almanac — it was right on — and the neighbor kids continued tubing. If my farming friends are correct with multiple sightings of skunk on the property, then I’m going with their prediction that spring is coming.
     Soon — please, sooner than later— bear, wake up from your hibernation, birds, squawk your arrival flight times and buds, poke out of the earth.