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Snowbound | Mary’s Farm

Snowbound | Mary’s Farm
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Photo/Art by illustration by Carl Owen/I2IART
“If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change” is such a famous saying that no one seems to know for sure who first said it, but it was never truer than it was on a certain weekend last February, on this hill here in southern New Hampshire. I can’t remember whether it snowed three feet in six days or six feet in three days. We were under a spell. The snow came at us for a long, seamless time, but I couldn’t get a good measurement, mostly because of the amazing drifts that rose up outside my windows like goblins. It wasn’t possible to plow my driveway (only big enough for my single car). He tried. There was no place to put the snow, plus, in the high winds, the snow just drifted back over, like plowing a river. I did what I could with the shoveling, but exhaustion overtook me. With the exception of the sliding door on my porch, all my doors were sealed shut with snow.

The wind sounded like an endless freight train flying across our open fields. Blessedly, the power stayed on, so I was able to see, on television, precarious situations in which roofs were in jeopardy or had collapsed. Mine were fine, as the snow just blew off them without ever landing. As evening fell, I brought in all the wood possible and filled the stoves, set a stew on to cook, and, with the storm still raging, settled into my comfortable red chair to read Whittier’s “Snow-Bound”—aloud. (Perhaps I’d gone over the edge?) My dog, Harriet, was an appreciative audience, sitting facing me, cocking her head in an effort to understand the word “blizzard,” a word she didn’t know she knew. Such a great, timeless poem, at least for those of us who live closely with the elements: And ere the early bedtime came / The white drift piled the window-frame, / And through the glass the clothes-line posts / Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts . . .

By Sunday, the accelerator on the storm had eased. The sky held a hint of blue. Life could resume. I set forth with my neighbor, Anne, for the annual meeting of our historical society, which had been postponed from Friday night, when we were in the teeth of the storm. For the event’s potluck, which always precedes the meeting, I had my skillet cornbread, wrapped in a towel on the back seat, and Anne had her layer cake under a dome, held tightly in her lap. The roads were plowed, but the snowbanks rose above us, their tops tumbling into the road. (Driving between these high banks reminded me of a small boat passing through a lock in a canal. Coming to an intersection: visibility zero.) The roads were empty, and the mere three miles we had to navigate made us feel like members of the Donner Party.

We arrived to find the church dark, not a single car in the snowdrifted parking lot. We concluded that the meeting had been further postponed and retraced our steps to Anne’s house, where she insisted on making dinner for us. Much later, we learned that the meeting had been put off once more because the bucket loader used to plow the church’s driveway had given out in the midst of the effort. No driveway, no meeting.

Two days later, the temperature was 59 degrees, and snowmelt burbled down the road.
Bluebirds sat on the fenceposts. The historical society’s meeting took place on a warm night two weeks later.

Updated Thursday, January 9th, 2014

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