Wind howled through the breezeway last night, pelting cedar boughs against the windows of the house, waking me from a sound sleep. The snow started the night before, a few flakes at first in a dull afternoon sky, and then wind-driven eddies around the edges of the house. I watched sharp gusts of snow billow, then swirl and drift to the ground. The naked branches of the trees turned white. The forest beyond, covered with soft white caps as it quietly fell into a darkened night.
Portland does not get many snowstorms, but when she does, they are forecast with a sense of awe and drama one would reserve for the second coming of Christ, or the end of the world. The forecasters call them, ‘storm events,’ as if weather needed to be labeled and made bigger than itself. Our east coast and Canadian friends would laugh at this storm in its meager accumulation, but the ice that melts and freezes underneath makes it dangerous and noteworthy.
On a personal level, it marks days of retreat, since our driveway is steep, long and formidable. We read, work on the computer, and gaze from the window. A large island of ice has formed on the pond below. Ducks swim to the ice, stop abruptly, and change direction, seemingly confused by their new confinement. They test the boundary one at a time, and in groups. A few push on top of the ice, stand on one leg and preen, while the geese stay on the bank, search a wind-exposed patch of grass and watch the ducks from a distance. They waddle, honk and survey, as the ducks lift off in unison darkening the sky in great noisy bursts of life.
I mother my husband, Gib, in winter, because he has no understanding of weather. While I was making ice sculptures in Vermont, skiing on Burke Mountain, and thawing the pump to bring water to horses in upstate, New York, he was playing baseball and driving sports cars in Southern California, his wardrobe nothing but sandals, bermuda shorts and tee-shirts. His childhood was spent in sun, so weather is a delight for him, the more severe the better.
The first time we drove to the mountains I put ski pants, flannels, gloves and boots near his suitcase. When we arrived, he had none of them. Where are your winter clothes? I asked in disbelief. He stood before me in a spring jacket, loafers and blue jeans. Oh, those things? I didn’t think I’d need them. The man will go out in a blizzard with no thought to hat or gloves. The cashmere scarf I bought last year gathers dust in his closet. Last winter he had frostbite and pneumonia, but makes no connection between under-dressing and illness. I have become a militant wife in self-defense, because I’d rather be that, than nurse his enduring respiratory aliments. No matter, Gib loves weather, while I sit with a cup of steaming tea, having fantasies of swimsuits and warm exotic places. I get emails from friends who winter in Hawaii and the Caribbean, and try not to hate them when they send images of suntanned faces holding fruity cocktails near the sea.
The sun is fading now. Another short December day. The radio says a new storm should arrive by Thursday. Gib will be delighted as he bursts through the door with his Rudolph nose and ears to match, his hair swept straight up by savage wind. I’ll put hot soup on the stove and a crisp in the oven, then put a movie in the player like a needle in my arm, in the hope of numbing myself until the welcome herald of spring.