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I’m writing this on Sunday morning, during the first real snowstorm we’ve enjoyed this year — though I almost didn’t believe it was going to happen.
I stopped believing the weather woman about 2 months ago. This was a deliberate act of rebellion because riding the prediction roller coaster was damaging my nerves and upsetting the dogs. Calls for snow this winter have too often dissembled into blue skies, warm chinooks, and mud in the paddocks, and although I have sympathy for anyone who signs up to predict the weather in Central Oregon my stores of good humor were used up three fake storms ago.
But, for some reason, I believed her this time. More importantly, I planned ahead. Instead of the humiliation of standing in line for the ice-melt lottery at Luttons – which some of you may remember from a few years ago — I now have enough ice-melt on hand for the next decade and diesel to run my tractor well into the next presidential election — which is its own kind of storm.
Also, I have an industrial, shock-proof, carbon-fiber, high-speed roof rake.
This kind of snow was not something I prepared for – despite knowing better — back in the Snowpocalypse of ’17, which hit Sisters town like a fuel-air bomb, collapsing barns and buildings, morphing light fixtures into waterfalls, flooding basements, turning “ice dams” into a dirty phrase, and leaving far too many people living in their bedroom closets or fifth wheels for months on end while their houses dried out.
But the weather peeps seem to have gotten it right this time around. Which reminds me of Arnold Palmer’s quip to a loudmouth in the gallery who shouted “Lucky shot” after Arnold nailed a 300-yard hole-in-one. “Maybe,” Palmer said, “But the more I practice the luckier I get.” Or so the story goes. Other versions of the story give credit to Gary Player, and yet another version claims a foreign mercenary first uttered the phrase during the Cuban Revolution — though one wonders about the context.
If there were any justice for the hapless and bedraggled ranks of Central Oregon meteorologists it would have been one of them who said it, though the larger point is that in tracking the source of a quote — not unlike predicting the weather — degrees of accuracy matter.
But the snow, which as I look out the window just now is bending the skinny juniper in front of our house like an enormous longbow, is emphatically needed to help beat back the enduring threat of wildfire we all live with. Fire is the one thing that keeps me awake at night although the incremental creep of socialism into American politics runs a close second. They both rate a wary eye because they have similarly devastating effects, as 1,000,000% inflation (that’s a real number) and tens of thousands of starving Venezuelans can attest.
Speaking of snow, Corner House Publishers did the world a service by putting out a terrific collection of Thoreau’s journal entries called “Winter”. The book follows the calendar from December to February, drawing from his personal musings between 1838 and 1860. I read this book every winter, sipping from it one day at a time like a cup of hot tea in the morning, and find in it the nuggets of contemplative insight that continue to support Thoreau’s legacy as a giant.
On February 23, 1860, which is the day the collection ends, and about thirteen months before General Beauregard kicked off the civil war by firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay, Thoreau wrote:
“Thermometer 58° and snow almost gone, river rising. We have not had so warm a day since the beginning of December, which was unusually warm. I walk over the moist Nawshawtuck hillside, and see the green radical leaves of the buttercup, shepherd’s purse, sorrel, chickwee, cerastium, etc., revealed. A fact must be the vehicle of some humanity in order to interest us. Otherwise it is like giving a man a stone when he asks for bread. Ultimately the moral is all in all, and we do not mind it if inferior truth is sacrificed to superior, as when the annalist fables, and makes animals speak and act like men. It must be warm, moist, incarnated, have been breathed on at least. A man has not seen a thing who has not felt it.”
Tucked into the house with the dogs at my feet, in a kind of post-tractor, post snowplowing hum, I’m looking forward to some radical leaves myself. I want an extremist spring: reactionary redwing blackbirds in the meadow, an army of insurrectionist bees spilling out of the hive, subversive trout, revolutionary frogs, and as many fanatical apple blossoms as the season can throw at us.
That’s not asking a lot, frankly, and because it is such a minimal request I can’t help but think Thoreau was right: it really is “all in all,” because we can’t warm up properly if we haven’t spent some quality time getting really cold. And also because – maybe mostly because — one of the great pleasures of spring comes from feeling the things that we see, breathed on by the sun, and warming up into radical life.
We’ve had the opposite problem here, with steady snow for a month and now for what looks like most of March as well. The season has dragged on, but aside from a few snowstorms back in December, things were pretty dry until the first of February.
The more Idaho winters I do, the more Appalachia appeals to me.
Craig Rullman says
I’m on a 3 hour plow schedule and still can’t keep the road to the barn open. It’s a waist-deep grind to get down there to feed the horses, but I cheat a little by running the dogs ahead of me. The major concern now is that one of the ponderosas doesn’t decide to fall into the house. And the 3.5 feet of snow on the roof that I haven’t been able to get to yet. Amazingly, tonight was the first time we lost power, and only for an hour, although I didn’t plan far enough ahead to haul the generator down from the shed where it sits. Impossible now. I was out on the tractor tonight when the house lights flickered and went out. For a minute I shut the tractor down and just sat. A remarkable moment, full of darkness and quiet and intense wonder. “All in all,” as the wise man said.
A wise man indeed. Spent some time hiking our local mountain in the cedars and the snow on Sunday. It was a right and necessary way to start the week, for me and the dog both. Have to be reminded that there is beauty here, too. Beauty and–as you say–quiet.
Gregory A Walker says
Brother Craig -
Your pictures and narrative this morning reawakened a long dormant memory cell titled “Winter Warfare”.
In an instant vivid mental images flashed across my eyes of tiny snow caves, military snowshoes, training patrols through deep and barren woods in knee and hip deep drifts of ice glazed powder, and the foggy vapor of lung-warmed oxygen being expelled with each step.
Tiny campfires at the end of the day and into the evening…the welcome aroma of burning a C‑ration box around its tinned contents…tiny folding camp stools tightly circled on the outskirts of the orange, red, and yellow flames and the low banter of friends, brothers, teammates as we recounted “And this is no shit…” stories.
Carefully pulling off boots and replacing socks with thick warm ones for the night’s sleep. Snuggling down into down military sleeping bags and zipping them up tight. Guard duty by the campfire for two hours per man. Bright stars on clear nights. Alone watching soft snow flakes drifting down and further hiding the RON site in the darkness.
Good memories this morning as I sit here writing this to you and gazing out the window at the Park Block below here in Portland. A light covering of snow present. A bit of ice on the sidewalks and streets. The morning’s grey light quiet, somber, muted.
But I can close my eyes and hear the sounds of gathered wood being broken to place upon the now re-stoked fire. Hear the grunts and groans of my teammates awaking. The wonderful aroma of “Billy can coffee” boiling and the clanking of canteen cups being opened. Rough but amiable curses thrown at each other…quick smiles…good natured jibes directed at the “old guys” by us young wolf cubs with so much more to learn and see and experience…and then pass down as they were doing for us.
And us, not yet blooded by war, loving the wild joy of being alive and living as a pack in the depths of God’s most wonderous creation.
Thank you, Brother, for these memories this morning on the other side of the mountain.
Craig Rullman says
Marvelous. “Living as a pack” — that is the phrase I have been looking for — vivid, encompassing, perfect. So great to hear from you my friend.
Greg Walker says
Chrissy snyder says
What a nice read this morning. Thank you, Craig.
Craig Rullman says
Thanks Chrissy 🙂
Great post, Craig! Not that much snow so far in here in SEK, but plenty of nights in the teens or lower. My house runs on firewood, so it’s been a busy 2019 so far.
Hard winters teach lessons to the thoughtful.
Craig Rullman says
Thanks, Deuce. They do indeed. I was rereading a bit I wrote about “Happy People”, Werner Herzog’s epic documentary about life in deepest Siberia. If you’ve not seen it, definitely get your hands on it. We can learn an awful lot from those folks.
lane batot says
I LOVE that documentary! And those Laika dogs are something else! Superb woods dogs! The Russian fellow that introduced West Siberian Laikas to the U. S.A.(Vladimir Bergevoy) lives not far from me(two hours drive North, in Roanoke Virginia), and still breeds them. He gave me two Tazis some years back(Tazis are basically salukis from Kazakhstan), which he also used to keep and breed, but I’ve always been SORELY tempted to get a Laika!
Ugly Hombre says
Very nice and that photo of the horse in the snowy pasture is first rate!
A kid living in snow land- probably the most fun you can have as a youngster.
Hunting in the snow, snow crunching under your boots.
Wolves killing a moose on a frozen lake- running from the cabin to a overlooking hill to watch it.
Sliding off the icy road into a snow bank with a girl by you side- not worried, about getting out of the ditch to soon.
Shoveling mountains of snow — seemed like unloading a boxcar full of coal with a teaspoon.
A mega blizzard heading to the recruiters office “Dad get me out of here.”
“To bear arms to meet death with no regret that is the energy of northren men.” said Kung Tzu.
I ended up in the Library. ha ha!
lane batot says
RLT, you might want to reconsider Appalachia–at least THIS particular year! Although I’m just East of the Appalachian range proper now, the mountains, and where I am, has gotten nothing but RAIN, RAIN, RAIN this Winter(it is raining as I peck this out!), and I’m fair sick of it!.…Craig, I used to have a GUARANTEED way to predict if I was going to get much of an accumulation of snow(and this was in the days when I lived DEEP in Appalachia!). I had a gung-ho team of sled dogs then(that was MY pack!), made up of wolf hybrids(their dog genetics was mostly Siberian or Malamute, as are most wolf-dog crosses, so definitely sled-oriented potential which I encouraged), Siberian Huskies, and my Catahoula who eventually decided harness work was not so degrading, and actually a LOT of fun!(You can actually see my old team on the internet now–inevitable I guess– by Googling my name and getting on the WBIR “Heartland Series” Facebook video that comes up, to see the 1991 segment that Channel 10 outta Knoxville did on me and that team.…). Those dogs SOOOOO loved to run together in harness(despite the fact that I took the pack free-running loose in the mountains almost every night as well) that they would SCREAM and howl(see video) every time they even THOUGHT we might be loading up to go! And back to snow predicting–they KNEW if we had a decent snow we WOULD be getting my actual wooden dogsled out(a dog cart is what is used in the video), which was EVEN BETTER. They would be NUTS if it started snowing, and we were going to get a decent accumulation! But even if the snow was coming down like crazy, and the dogs just ignored it and were calm, it would not amount to anything! This NEVER FAILED. Don’t ask me HOW they always knew.….
You live in a post card my friend.….
Isn’t it supposed to be getting warmer?