Saturday, January 16, 2021

Texas notes: Snow

     Now when I need to describe Caren Jeskey briefly, I'll be able to say, "She is a woman who..." Well, I shouldn't give it away. Her Saturday report:

     It snowed in Texas. At first I thought it would be nothing but a sad smattering. Yet as the day wore on it started sticking. Yes, a respectable snowfall after all. Part of me wanted to hunker down in bed for the day. After all, it was a Sunday and I finally had an excuse to stay in. Nearly every day in Austin, year round, is too nice to justify staying inside; but today I was allowed to eat some raw cookie dough, maybe bake a few cookies, drink coffee and stay under blankets in bed.
     But wait; this just can’t be. I am a Chicagoan. 30s and snowy means heading out for the day, not succumbing to wimp-dom.
    To get motivated, I got onto Facebook and posted on Buy Nothing, a local gift exchange group. “Who would like me to walk a package of Trader Joe’s cookie dough over to your porch?” Within moments a mother of a young child commented “we’d love it!” I bundled up, grateful for the snow boots I’d worn only once before in the past seven years of living in Austin. I set out with the cookie dough and also an unopened jar of Nutella. My neighbor saved me from lying around eating hazelnut chocolate spread out of the jar all day while listening to children frolic in the white powder in the park just behind my house.
     I set out the mile or so to my neighbor’s place, and dropped the goodies off on her stoop.
     I’d forgotten the magic of being outdoors on a snowy day. The white stuff nestled in cactus limbs and confused the fronds of palm trees. The juxtaposition of cacti and snow was stark and somehow cleansing to the soul.  
     I spent the rest of the day wandering around and marveling at the joy this day was bringing to me and everyone else smart enough to immerse ourselves into nature’s gift. Countless snow creatures sprung up all around, peppering a big field and perching on fenceposts and car hoods. Some were muddy and covered with leaves. Still, they all became my friends for the day. Each snow person had a personality of its own. I rested my head on one of their shoulders and felt like a content child.
     Back home in Rogers Park, Chicago, five inches or more of white, fluffy snow invited us out to romp and play on many winter days. Heck, sometimes on Fall or Spring days too. We’d toss snowballs around, and then we’d make snow friends with coal eyes, carrot noses, top hats, and scarves, until our fingers were numb. When our clothes got wet and our sweat started to freeze, we’d spill into the foyer of our house, shed soggy boots and frozen gloves, and gather around the kitchen table for hot cocoa with marshmallows floating on top.         
     Snow play was exhausting. We’d make our way to couches in the sunken den, cover up with blankets, and mom and dad would turn the TV to Frosty The Snowman or The Sound of Music. Dad would pop popcorn and drench it with butter and we’d half watch, half doze to the sounds of the television.
     Eventually we’d groggily watch the closing credits and slowly make our way up to our bedrooms, or maybe Dad would carry us, one at a time— or sometimes two!
     The next morning the ground would be a smooth glistening blanket, and everything was quiet. Red cardinals and black ravens perched on branches. We’d put our almost-dry boots and mittens back on, and venture out for another day of fun. What a wonderful thing, snow.
           Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
            —Robert Frost


  1. Walking through falling snow, preferably numerous big flakes, slowly making their way earthward on a still night was an opportunity I could never resist. Though the beauty would soon be destroyed by the city, the almost eerie quiet was a welcome respite from revving engines, honking horns and distant sirens.

    1. I was right there with you. I didn't remember how much I missed it.

  2. If your really longing for a Chicago winter, block of a parking spot with beach chairs and an ironing board. See how long it takes for the police to arrive. “Crazy neighbor throwing junk on the street.”
    You will ever be known as ‘that crazy lady.’

  3. Though I'm not as fond of snow as I used to be, I've long been charmed by this Thoreau quote: "For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms, and did my duty faithfully..." Taking advantage of your rare opportunity for some snow-wandering in Texas was certainly the right way to go, especially given the flora to be inspected in Texas that one doesn't find in Rogers Park. Fun photos, too, Caren.

  4. Sorry, Caren, but we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I hate snow. Always have, even as a kid.

    Never liked playing in it, because winter clothing, back in the day, soon got completely saturated and frozen. Hated snowball fights and getting clocked in the puss. Years later, in adulthood, I lived through the blizzards of '67 and '79, when getting around Chicago was a nightmare for weeks. I directed traffic until the cops showed up, and when the dog got outside, I had to chase him through chest-high drifts.

    So what did I do in my mid-forties? I moved to Cleveland, which gets twice as much snow as Chicago, and that amount is doubled again if you live in the higher elevations, east of the city (Fortunately, I don't). It's pretty to look at, when you're indoors, or to walk in when it's falling, if the snow isn't too deep and the weather isn't too cold and windy.One saving grace: it takes longer for our snow to get dirty than it does in Chicago.

    And now that I'm a geezer, I really hate driving in snow. I try to avoid that, because all the cowboys in their pickups and SUVs don't bother to slow down, no matter how bad the snow gets. Are they really getting more reckless, or am I just old? I think it's both.

    By far, the worst thing about snow is snow removal. I have a big snowblower, but I don't especially enjoy shlepping it around. Luckily, I've only had to use it once in the last three winters, including this one, despite several major storms, each of which deposited as much as a foot of snow. My neighbor's a big burly guy with an even bigger machine, and he likes to fire it up and help folks out.

    What I truly despise most about snow is the hell of shoveling it. I have a short driveway, but I live on a corner lot. So there's about 250 feet of sidewalk to clear. I grew up on a corner lot, too. In my teens, I spotted my father taking home movies of me while I shoveled ("Hey, look! My son is working!"). I stopped, turned the shovel upside down so that it looked like an ON STRIKE sign, and began "picketing" the house. I was wearing a bright-red woolen winter jacket and yellow earmuffs, and I looked like a British redcoat. What a doofus!

    I would be ecstatic if I became a snowbird, and never saw another slowflake for the rest of my life. But I will die here. Probably with a snow shovel in my hand.

    1. Grizz, nobody likes driving in or shoveling snow, but finding a little joy in life's annoyances makes them more bearable. During the '67 blizzard I walked a mile and a half home from our high school with a friend. Traveling eastward into the lake effect winds that produced that immense snowfall, we became encrusted in ice before we reached our homes. I learned a lesson about people that day, as we stopped after a mile to warm up in the shelter of the Catholic grammar school we'd attended. Rather than being comforted, we were scolded by the nuns for dripping on their tiled floor and sent immediately back into the storm. That our parents had helped finance the structure mattered not. Thank you, Jesus! Oh, I learned another lesson the next day. Don't wait for the snow to stop falling before shoveling.

    2. That was a helluva storm...almost two feet in a little over a day. My father was trapped downtown with his boss (my uncle). They holed up at the old LaSalle Hotel for three days. Probably had themselves a time. My mother was stranded on a Greyhound bus in Michigan, and had to be rescued by the National Guard. Not much heat. There were a couple of infants on that bus who were in rough shape.

      Me? Semester break and stuck at home with my kid sister. Actually walked over half-a-mile to the drug store for some reason. Smokes? Crazy. It was a tough slog through the falling and blowing snow. Somebody was shoveling out the entranceway. By the time I thawed out, and started back home, the entranceway was completely drifted shut again.

      Worst snowstorm in my lifetime. Hope I never see another one like it. The train ride back to school felt like the one in "Doctor Zhivago"--which I cleverly changed into "Doctor Chicago." Been a snarker all my life.

  5. Snow? there's nothing to miss- I'm with Grizz.


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