Not everyone lives in a place where the drive to work is not only a lesson in natural science, but a sensory pleasure. We do. Each morning my drive to work brings a new experience. This morning, on the little hilltop where I live, the sun was already shining and the walk I shoveled over the weekend was clear and dry. Then, a trip down the driveway brought me into an entirely different world.
The hoarfrost began to coat the trees halfway down the drive, and by the time I reached the bottom, where the mailbox and trash containers were iced in white, I could see that across the farm field, a winter fog filled the ravines and bluff bottoms. Trees were dressed in ice, objects were coated like a layer of white chocolate on an Eskimo pie.
As I drove down into the valley, the city was obscured by fog. When I stopped for coffee, I couldn’t see across Lake Winona. The fog seemed to muffle sounds, giving me a strange feeling of being alone, but surrounded by people in traffic.
In the alley behind my office building, the melted snow from yesterday had frozen on the blacktop, and my co-worker was out spreading salt and sand. An aside: he had been living in the South for many years, coming here only recently. After the first snow, he had to be shown how to shovel the walks and get rid of ice. Before Christmas, I asked him to carry a pot of greens that had been delivered to the front office to my car, so I could take them home. He went to the receptionist and, puzzled, asked where the pot of greens was. She pointed beside him, where there were Christmas evergreens arranged in a pot, with red accents. Oh, he said, I was expecting a pot of greens! I guess he thought I was going to cook up a mess of collard greens for Christmas dinner. The closest I got was lettuce from the grocery store.
In just a few minutes, it seemed, the temperature rose, and the fog burned off. In Winona, though, the fog seems not to exactly “burn off,” but to be rolled back into the river, like a shade being opened to reveal the sun. First the ridges come into light, then the fog rolls down the bluffs, and slowly the valley is revealed, until the last bit of fog is swallowed whole by the river.
I’m enjoying this January thaw, even though I know it will wreak havoc on snow and ice sports. With luck, the temperature will fall, as it usually does, in about a week, and it will be winter again for all those who love it. Even I, who am not a big fan of winter weather, understand that we need snow to have enough moisture to feed our plants, our livestock, to ship our commodities, to replenish our drinking water supplies.
So I’m basking in the warm weather, but won’t look askance at bumper stickers that plead, “Let it snow!”