We got snow. Yes we did. Yesterday they had forecast 1-3 inches of new snow, but we think that might have been a typo. What they meant to say was we might get 1-3 feet of snow. When I got home from work it had been snowing most of the day, and there was a good, solid foot of snow on my driveway. It took me an hour and a half, but I got it shoveled off. It was good, honest labor, and my back hurt from the effort, but that’s what Mr. Tubby is for. This morning when I got up expecting to see a thoroughly shoveled driveway, I was disappointed. The nighttime snow that had fallen was up to my windows, more was coming down, and the driveway looked like I’d been slagging the day before instead of seriously developing my shoveling muscles. Just to be scientific about it rather than pulling a 10-inches-deeper and 10-degrees-colder Sonny-ism, I brought a ruler out with me to check the depth of snow on the driveway. Exactly one and a half feet. Oh boy.
My eyes were drawn speculatively across the snowflakes falling through the darkness, down to the highway, where I could easily picture the berm created by the snow plows at the edge of my road. It was about three feet high and three feet wide, composed of snow compacted as dense as a meteorite by the pressure of the speeding plows. I could drive through the foot-and-a-half on the driveway, but even a four wheel drive pick up and a downhill approach wouldn’t get me through that berm, so despite the fact that the thought of snowshoeing on two and a half feet of new powder on my normally bucolic little half hour walk to work didn’t sound like the best way to start the day on a dark, blizzardy morning, it was the option I had available to me, so there I went. It was about to get interesting.
Was it interesting? No, not really. More like a death march, actually. My path through the woods was completely filled in with new snow, the wind was blowing hunks of fresh snow out of the trees which thwacked me sporadically and unexpectedly on the back of the neck, dribbling snow under my collar and making me lose my balance. It is surprising how unbalanced a snowshoe-er can get, given that the snow shoes themselves are all big and stable-looking, and that the snow looks pretty darn flat on top. On top it is, but two feet under that new, drifty stuff is all sorts of lumps and bumps, which give or don’t as the snow above them is compressed by the snow shoe. The end result is that the snowshoe-er can tip over quite easily. Which, of course, I did.
Even so, I was remarkably prepared for that particular eventuality, as I had ensconced my computer bag in a huge plastic bag, having predicted not the tumble, but at least the infiltration of blowing, blizzardy snow into its pockets and, inevitably, my newly rehabilitated circuit boards. And all those years of yoga and Eric Hawkins Technique Modern Dance training paid off, as I forewent the possibility of pulling a full-Nelson type of half-pike position triple axle-whammy into the dark snow for a simple whump! onto my ass when a sudden Tasmanian Devil of windy snow made me look away from the path and lose my footing. That’s what dance and yoga are for: damage control. Still, there was snow in crevices which had hitherto been guarded, and even if my computer was safe, I was not.
Being freshly frosted reminded me of the tenuous nature of my lines to safety. Here I am, sweaty from effort, yet cold from infiltration, tromping through the dark woods in a blizzard. My legs were trembling with effort, churning my knees up to my chin to mount the next step, pushing the snow down, compacting it with all the grace and authority of a distracted toddler closing a door, while my hot, belabored breath drafted up to my glasses, fogging them up such that I had to close one eye, and look only through the upper left corner of the remaining un-fogged lens in order to discern the difference between large trees and gaping chasms. Surely the previously imagined threats from cougars and saber-toothed tigers were dwarfed by this situation because, no matter how malevolent or even simply efficient a carnivore might be, it would be denned up in this weather, don’t you think?
The carnivores were not paying attention to me, which is a good thing, because it freed up a huge cache of anxiety for wondering what would happen should my flashlight die. Had there been moonlight, I’d be able to navigate this path I know like the back of my hand just fine, even with two and a half feet of new snow. Had there been no moonlight, but a path uncluttered with new snow, you could count on me to lead you forth from the dark woods into the hard certainties of pavement and streetlight with surety. But now? I shut off my flashlight, just to see. Not a chance. All I could see was snow, and it wasn’t immediately apparent which of the snow was on the ground, and which was on its way there, via circuitous, wind-driven routes. I suppose I could blindly head downhill, which would inevitably lead me to the highway, but I really wasn’t sure where downhill was. You could fall up, you could fall down, or you could just fall in all directions, as near as I could tell. I turned the flashlight back on and made a mental note to pack a spare. See how I am?