Morning, west window

The sky feels oddly bright, considering the snow thickly falling in clustered flakes. The wind gusts, whirling flakes into powder, snowglobing my backyard vista. For a moment, a cloud of white obscures the trees, the neighbors’ backyards, the whole world. I exist inside a house inside an utter blank. Then the wind settles, the world returns. Hide and seek.

I am warm and dry, still in my pajamas, instructed to stay home. Most of us are hunkering today, cozy in our elaborate shelters, padding about our houses in delight or dismay. Our deadlines and obligations succumb to wind chills and snow drifts. We are forced to stay still.

Meanwhile, the wind plays. “What a fine blizzard we have going here!” the wind says. The birdies play along. Our resident sparrows, fluffed into silly sparrow-puffs, flit in batches from their beloved brush pile to the neighbor’s coldly empty feeders. Three hefty crows take turns at a surveillance post on the topmost curve of a shepherd-hook, flapping to the ground as needed to contend with the chirrupy sparrows.  

The poor Juneberry tree, arthritic with age, has lost some height this week. A daredevil squirrel likes to leap onto its delicate upper branches from the roof, rudely snapping them. The branch ends dangle.                                       

Afternoon, north window

I should be at my desk, Getting Things Done, but the blizzard mesmerizes me to the window again. The river birches are up to their knees now in drifts, frosted vertically up one side of their crumpled-paper trunks. The viburnum shrubs, stripped to an ectomorphic minimum for winter, look like sprays of toothpicks stuck in frosting. Hairlike tufts of dried switchgrass poke above the snow, trembling.  

The Norway spruces, meanwhile, lumped with heavy slabs of snow-frosting, remain undaunted. They bend their bushy arms, yielding graciously to the weight. They have no worries about breakage. In the gray light, their needles look black—no, blue—no, green. Darkest green. Darkest green-blue-black.

I slept well last night, and my desk work summons. But never mind. The trees say: Yield, wait, rest. I feel myself sinking into a nap.

Sunset, east window

Frost feathers the lower window panes. Just outside the window, the dogwood’s generous branches arch downward then turn up at the ends, as if holding out open hands, finger-tipped with incipient buds. Each branch is coated with loaves of snow, each twig-hand holds a marshmallow.

The snow continues to fall, glittery crystals filling the air. Driveways and walks have disappeared under a smooth, radiant layer. Gray sky, gray-white snow, umber tree silhouettes, the glittering world. Grays, edged with white, sink into blue.

Evening, east window

Now the neighbors’ porch lights glow gold. Gray-blues deepen into violets. Wind ruffles the dogwood branches, but the twig-hands cling to their crusted puffs.

I turn to desk work under a lamp in a darkened room, keeping half an eye on that violet sky receding to blackness. Later, when our windows mostly reflect our lamps, we head downstairs and turn on the TV. We let the dog out one more time. She doesn’t go far, stepping through drifts to find the nearest accommodating spot. She slips eagerly back inside, a blast of frigid air sweeping in behind her.

We ourselves have not set even one foot outside since last evening. We are safe and snug with our central heat, our insulating windows, our weather-stripped doors. We are grateful. We can enjoy these limitations, knowing they are temporary. We crawl under the covers to sleep.  

Predawn, southeast window

Pearlescent sky. The neighbor’s outdoor lights glow bright. Wisps of vapor rise from neighbors’ central heating vents. No glowing windows yet. Stillness. The world seems absent of angles, curvaceous contours of snow rounding over every shrub, mailbox, the vague indents of driveways.

Dawn, southeast window

The sky glows with palest blue, the first hint in days. A neighbor comes out, bundled head to toe, to start his truck. He sets it running, then dashes back inside, emerging a few minutes later with a travel mug and bag, off to work.

Now a faint pink radiance silhouettes the rooftops. Now pale peach. The sky rejoices! I look away for a few minutes, and when I look back: a bright orb pierces the stand of spruces: light!

The air glitters with a last shimmer of snowfall, but the day stirs new and bright. Never mind the still-frigid air, our confinement is over! Neighbors appear with shovels, plotting their escape.

Morning

The sun blazes, rousing the world to color, shadow, sparkle. Light pours through all the windows. Tasks set aside seem urgent again. Work thoughts come streaming back, days grind back into motion. We have paused, as bidden. Now we move again.

We pack on the layers and burst outside, determined. Gather those shovels, angle your weight on the handle, push. Shove, lift, pile. The end of the driveway is a Hadrian’s wall of hard-packed snow, thanks to the city’s perfunctory overnight snowplow pass. We excavate. We dig out the mailbox. We keep at it.

It takes an hour. When we come back in the house, stamping and huffing, unwinding scarves and shedding snow-crusted layers, we are exuberant.  

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