Friday, February 12, 2010

WHAT’S THAT WHITE STUFF?

We are the butt of many friends’ jokes today. Every November, when we decide to leave The Mountain and head to Louisiana, we tell Sewanee, TN friends that we’re going home to get warm, and when we arrive in Louisiana, we declare that we came to New Iberia where the climate is temperate in the winter. Ha! This morning, as I sat at my desk overlooking the back yard, I saw these white things falling through the oak branches. A moment later, I realized that the falling things were snow flakes! In fact, this winter, Louisiana has experienced many 20 and 30 degree days that disqualify it as a state in which to seek refuge from winter storms.

I recall traveling to Virginia one November when the driver, originally from Florida, turned on the windshield wipers and asked, “What are those bugs that keep flying against the windshield?” My winter in Maine years ago made an indelible impression on me, and I realized that the blur of white objects hitting the windshield wasn’t a swarm of strange insects–it was snow. At least I had a bit more savvy about snowflakes than the Floridian! However, that was “business as usual” in Virginia, and snowfall during February in Louisiana makes me rethink my choice of a winter retreat. Perhaps we should depart for Cairo, Egypt where the skies are clear, the temperature is 79 degrees, and a light wind is blowing today.

During these cold winter days, people seek various ways to keep warm–wood fires in the fireplace, hot tea and hot chocolate, or, ahem, they partake of hearty draughts of alcohol. An announcement on the “Episcopal Life Online” debunks the latter method of keeping warm. It seems that Benedictine monks in the Devonshire hills of southern England are being chastised by a Scottish bishop for producing a wine with high alcohol content because the wine has become notorious for “wrecking the hoose juice” in Scotland. One in ten of the crime reports in Scotland involve violence inspired (?) by this strange wine. I hope this announcement won’t encourage exports of the “wrecking juice” to America because we don’t need added anti-social behavior on our shores. Hopefully, when cold weather strikes, we’ll put more logs on the fire and forget about the brew.

As I looked out at the snow falling, I thought again about my newest book, THE MAINE EVENT, which will be published soon. A passage from this book describes the landscape of bounteous snowfall in wilderness country:

“The highway to New Brunswick led us up steep hills bordered by a wilderness so dense that I felt as though we were traveling into a wood that would swallow us up any moment, and we’d be unable to turn back. Thirty-two inches of snow had fallen in Aroostook County, and the tall snow mounds heaped there by snow plows edged the highway. I wrote about their height (which measured as high as telephone poles) in letters to my mother and was accused of exaggerating the description of snowfall. Mrs. Sprague, an older woman who was the only native of Aroostook County living in my neighborhood, told me that only a decade ago, before the county replaced them with snow plows, snow rollers packed snow on the roads so cars could be driven on them during the winter. Rivers in Aroostook County froze, but old-timers in Limestone told us we could anticipate some January thaws when a mock Spring of low, 40-degree temperatures would cause some melting…”

As I conclude this blog, the white flakes have dissipated, and I view a typical Louisiana scene–soggy ground and standing pools of water!
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