Having lived in the Northeast for my entire life, I am used to the changing of the seasons. As we parade through each calendar year, I enjoy the subtle and not-so-subtle transitions in weather and nature. Growing up in Vermont, I had experienced record-setting snowstorms, often trudging through several feet of snow, negative temperatures for days, and keeping my fingers crossed for a snow day cancellation of school. So, when it comes to cold weather, we northerners are tough, shorts and a t-shirt in 40 degrees tough (not me personally), and we know how to handle wintry weather. Or so I thought.
As a kid, cold weather never bothered me. I was content to play out in the snow for hours, bundled up in my many layers, mittens, and hat caked in snow. Building snowmen, sledding, and snowball fights filled out winter days. But I find that the cold isn’t quite as enjoyable as I get older. I am starting to understand the “snowbird” lifestyle of traveling south for the winter, just as many migrating birds do. I find myself embarrassed by my current Goldilocks’ yearnings for just the right temperature-not too hot and not too cold, but just right where I can be comfortable outdoors without a gazillion layers to keep me warm.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the changing of the seasons, and as a gardener, I especially appreciate the break that winter gives me while my garden is asleep. But, as the seemingly endless winter drones on, I find myself longing for spring-warmer days and a chance to get my hands back into the soil. I’m itching to spend long hours outdoors, and I am ready to get growing. But, much to my chagrin, winter is not over yet-which was made abundantly clear to me last week when a record-breaking ice storm hit our area.
We awoke to the sound of plows scraping the roads and the pinging of ice hitting our windows. It was 6:00 am, and the power had just gone out. I drew up the shade and peeked out the window to find what looked like a world frozen in time under a thick layer of ice. Every branch, blade of grass, and dried flower head encased in frozen precipitation. I imagined this must have been what the Ice Age looked like, only now it wasn’t 2 billion years in the past; it was currently right outside our door. Turning on our phones, we discovered that the State of Emergency had been declared and that tens of thousands of residents were without power.
As we sat under layers of blankets trying to stay warm throughout the day, the storm raged on. On many occasions, we heard the unmistakable sound of branches breaking under the immense weight of the ice-loud cracks that shook the house every time a branch plummeted to the ground. Anxiety arose with each sound as we kept our fingers crossed that none of the falling branches would hit the house. Then, two trees came down nearby that took out the transformer on an adjacent telephone pole and left the trees laying precariously on the wires. I had never seen anything like it.
That night, the temperatures outside dipped well below freezing, and we piled our bed high with every blanket we owned. We woke up cold and still in the dark. We didn’t own a generator, but on a whim, we headed to a home improvement store in town, hoping that they would have one. As luck would have it, we snagged one of the last ones. At least we could hook up our furnace to have heat. I know so many others weren’t as lucky. Hotel rooms were booked entirely for miles and warming centers opened in town for those still without heat.
That morning we awoke not to ice pinging on our windows but sun rays streaming through the blinds. The storm was finally over. When we walked outside, the landscape was breathtaking. The ice that encased the world was now dazzling like a million diamonds in the morning light. It was an incredible reminder of both the power and beauty of Mother Nature.
Several days passed before the power was restored to all of the residents in our area, and it will likely be months before all of the debris, fallen branches, and downed trees are cleaned up. It was a storm that I will not soon forget, as it was quite a terrifying ordeal. But, as I think back on it, I also feel encouraged and hopeful as I remember how people came together, as they often do in times of crisis. I am thankful for the line workers, some of whom came from across the country to help, who worked nonstop for days to restore power. I am grateful to the emergency responders and the highway department for working tirelessly to keep everyone safe. I am thankful for friends and neighbors who checked in on each other and ensured everyone was safe and warm. And I am grateful for my family, who grew closer through this shared experience. It did my heart good to see such humanity. Sometimes, through difficult times, we discover the best in others and ourselves.
However, I am still ready for spring.