It’s cold but it’s a different cold

I finally ventured out of the house today to clean our driveway. Yesterday I drove twenty miles for a medical appointment. After my return home I stayed inside for over twenty-four hours which is very atypical for me. I like walking and being out in the neighborhood. Overnight our temperature went down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit which is very cold to be sure. When I was a young boy it was not uncommon for temperatures to dip below -30F so I’m no stranger to cold weather. I can remember a time in the 1980’s when it was subzero for an entire week.

Climate change is a difficult subject in the United States. Some confuse climate with weather. Others, like our president assume that subzero cold weather is an indication that ‘global warming’ is a hoax. I read Inconvenient Truth many years ago and I’ve subsequently read other works about climate change and they all point to more extreme weather. You’re probably thinking about the subzero temperatures of yesteryear as an rebuttal for extreme weather.

Here’s where the difference lies. Years ago, we’d have a month or sometimes two or three where the temperature never got above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes if we were lucky we’d have a January thaw late in that month. This week, we’re going from subzero yesterday and today to more normal temperatures tomorrow followed by unseasonably warm temperatures rising in to the high forties and possibly fifty degrees on Monday. Prodigious snowfalls to our north will become water and cause ice packed creeks and rivers to overflow. Roadways and streets will be flooded and then just as quickly as it thawed there will be a return to frigid weather. Therein lies the difference and it’s a weather pattern that has been repeated time and time again in the past number of years. I believe it’s going to get worse and eventually it is going to threaten our existence in many ways that we can only imagine now.

Winter Storm Harper

The concept of naming storms is not new. In the past it’s been tropical storms and hurricanes that were named. I don’t remember winter storms or blizzards being officially named. I remember the Blizzard of ’66. I was in 8th grade and that storm came in January too. According to an article I read earlier on Wikipedia that storm happened January 27  – January 31 of that year. I remember that in our community of Arcade, New York that there were no cars moving on Main Street and that I joined my father and brother snow-shoeing to the local grocery store. We picked up some items that the priest who lived on the other end of our street needed. Had cable news existed back then I wonder what that storm would have been called. I don’t remember the exact snowfall totals but I do remember that the main street of our village was impassable. You can read more about the Blizzard of 66 here.

I hope everyone stays safe in this winter storm. I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and a warm place to stay. Snowstorms and blizzards always make me long for spring and green grass.

White desert

Today is one of those typical January days that define winter in the western southern tier of New York. It’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit and there is a mist of snow and ice crystals in the air. It’s a good day to be close to the fire. Frigid days and nights are said to produce a good crop of maple syrup in a few months. Maybe that’s just legend but if it’s true then today is filled with sweetness. For most of my life I’ve wished I lived someplace else at this time of year. I’d still prefer the sun’s warmth to days like today, but I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the white desert.  I’ve been privileged to visit the Sonoran desert of Arizona at certain times and a few weeks ago as I made my way in this winter wonderland I came to appreciate the parallel between the Sonoran desert and our countryside in winter.

We all need deserts in our lives to help us better define and appreciate the lushness of creation in our day to day life. I’ve felt a closeness with my creator which I cannot describe when I’m in these deserts and it has been the desert experiences which have blessed me.

I will lead you into the desert; there I will speak to your heart. — Hosea 2:14

A snowy evening

Last night my wife left for an overnight with our daughter. The mission for them is Christmas shopping. Whenever I ask my wife what she’d like for Christmas, the answer is, “don’t buy me any clothes,” or “I don’t need anything.” Truth of the matter is neither of us really needs anything. We’ve got our health, a warm home, employment, our children and twenty-five years of wonderful memories. Nonetheless, Christmas won’t be complete without gifts. Each day of our lives is Christmas. Each day we give of ourselves and sometimes the gifts are only a kind word, but it is still a gift.

With Diane gone I was left to find my own meal and since it was Friday night and I had business in nearby Ellicottville, New York I decided to stop by my favorite eatery there, Tips Up Cafe. I know the owner and he makes the best strip steak I’ve ever tasted. Tips Up was packed last night even though the weather outside was wintry. I love coming to Ellicottville. It’s such a lovely village and as you can see from the picture it’s decorated with lots of lights for the holidays.

Ellicottville is home to Holiday Valley, one of the largest ski areas in New York State and even though the rest of the country is in a steep recession Ellicottville is doing well with all the snow we’ve received thus far. A couple of weeks ago the snow totals for Ellicottville had exceeded 71 inches. We’ve added to that in recent days and then too the resorts make snow. Last night after dinner I drove with a friend to an area just below the slopes. The skiing had finished for the evening and the trails looked surreal as lights shined through both man made and earth made snow. It was a chillingly beautiful sight.  My ride home was exciting too as I made my way slowly along Route 242 which was snow covered and not plowed well. The dense snowfall made it difficult to see. My visibility was limited to just much less than a tenth of a mile in spots. Still there is something mystically beautiful about snowfalls.

Times like these always remind me of the words of Robert Frost.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep