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.