The wind blows, whistling through the older windows of the house. Occasionally I hear the crack-crackle of a snapping branch. The house creaks as very faint morning light trickles through the curtains. The lamp next to me flickers and goes out. About 30 seconds later, it comes back on. Off to the bathroom I go to fill the bathtub which I should have done the previous night what with the weathermen’s constant warnings and storm alerts. The light flickers again and goes off, this time it doesn’t come back on. The tub is half full. The house is silent, save for the sound of an occasional gust of wind.
It is barely light outside, but as I move from window to window, I can see mountains of snow. Atop the platform bird feeders are giant cubes of snow, like marshmallows for pterodactyls. The pine trees are snow-clump laden; their lower branches, the green of the needles mostly hidden, are nearly touching the ground. The leafless deciduous trees are crusted in white from treetops all through the weighed-down drooping branches and along the trunks that disappear into snowy hillocks. And it is still snowing, at the moment millions of tiny, tiny barely-visible flakes. A veritable winter wonderland.
Around the two sets of feeders, one off the kitchen, the other off the bedroom, the seasonal conclave of cardinals, looking quite lovely against this very white backdrop, attempts to find the seeds, buried deep in the drifts. A picture perfect holiday card that I wish someone would close and slip back into its envelope.
In come the red-winged blackbirds. This noisy feeder flock numbers between 15 and 25, competing with the now bright yellow-beaked starlings. Chickadee and nuthatches follow. These small birds are able to get seeds from the swinging mesh balls. Woodpeckers, too, are able to reach the suet, perhaps because the snow doesn’t stick to frozen fat. I attempt to fill the feeders, but there’s a foot and half of snow on the ground. From the back porch, I toss handfuls of seeds from the back porch, soon to be covered up.
As the day brightens I see a few downed limbs, one on the side lawn looking a bit like a Loch Ness monster as its curved branches disappear into the snow only to arise a foot or so beyond. Up and down … like wooden serpents gliding in and out of the sea of snow. Two ash trees rest upon the ground far back near the woods. The road plow throws up a wave of snow as it passes in front of the house.
By this time, the house is cooling off. Danny and I have prepared for the 19th century, a house without electricity, without heat and without running water. But aha, anachronistically we have cell phones. I try to check with NYSEG about the possible restoration time, but the website, when it is working, is slow and totally uninformative. Perhaps because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people trying to do the same thing.
The fire in the fireplace is warm and welcoming. Three battery-operated Coleman lanterns sit on the table in the living room. I close off rooms that I can. We spend the day reading, snacking on cheese and crackers, tuna salad, clearing off the porch, feeding the fire and watching the snow come down. At times the snowfall completely stops, then starts again with huge flakes as if someone had flipped over the snow globe we are in.
Fortunately, we are able to charge the phones from the car in the garage with the big door open to dissipate the exhaust. This takes about an hour to fully charge. Still no info on the return of the electricity. Time to prepare for sleep. Danny and I wrestle two single-sized mattresses down the stairs and place them in front of the fireplace in the only room with any warmth at all. Not a restful night, having to feed the fire all night long. No wonder the 19th-century folk had fireplaces in each room.
The next day, a brilliant sun rises in a blue, blue sky. The world is sparkling and blindingly white, the snow is deep, wet and heavy. Danny and I take turns shoveling the front steps and the walkway. Then we turn to the backyard. He makes a path to the feeders near the patio and fills them. The side feeders will have to wait as the path here is between the hill and the house where the snow drifts in and accumulates. It is well above my knees.
The NYSEG website finally comes alive: predicted restoration time—11 p.m.!
We used all of the wood on the back porch through the night and now have to go out behind the defunct outhouse to the lean-to of split logs, which is a bit of a distance. I trudge through the deep snow with the canvas carrier. I fill it and try to drag it behind me sliding it on top of the snow. I slowly pull in this load to the back porch where I’m joined by Danny. A rope would help I say. So we devise a method with ropes (no pulleys) dragging and sliding loads of wood along the path being created by our boot holes creating a clearer walkway of sorts.
Eventually the town crew has the road completely cleared, and our driveway has been plowed. Off we go to the village to get the newspaper and hot coffee, through a tunnel of snow-laden trees, trunks and limbs leaning on the telephone wires. A note on the door says free water and dry ice are available at the firehouse.
Returning, we take the back road past the farm pond we often check. As we approach, high in a blasted tree is a large hawk. Danny stops. The back of bird I am looking at is a bit mottled. It turns its head. The head is blotchy too. Osprey, I am thinking, when Danny says, "Bald eagle, what with that white head.” “On the lower branch,” he adds. We are looking at two different birds. One adult and one immature bald eagle. This species has not only recovered from the decimation of the DDT devastation of the 1950s-70s, the population is burgeoning. Perhaps these birds will nest somewhere near here.
In the open water are Canada geese with smaller common mergansers and mallards paddling among them. The adult eagle swoops down over the pond. The water fowl fidget but do not fly. The eagle soars away to the east. Crows fly over, ravens croak. Passels of pigeons fly from silo to barn roof. Juncos graveling along the cleared road edges fly up into the snow covered weeds.
Gusts of wind send up puffy, amorphous clouds of snow from the hillsides that now look like giant cotton plantations with clumps of snow adhering to the limbs and branches. Back up the hill we drive to the house, pelted, with each gust of wind, by icy snow balls falling from trees. As we enter the driveway, that downed limb we thought came from the maple tree in the front turns out, as it emerges from the collapsing snow cover, to be a 50-or 60-foot tall tree from the woods behind the house, firewood for next year.
At 6:30 p.m., the lights come on and the house starts humming. Dark green daffodil spikes pierce the snow. Spring is definitely here, the snowy disguise will soon be gone!