Sunday, December 21, 2008

Impaled On The Horns Of The Blizzard

It's been snowing for a while here. Two, three days—I've lost count. Yesterday a friend in the grip of cabin fever invited us for brunch today. And in the heat of the moment, my own cabin-fevered brain made me say “Yes! Of course! Wouldn't miss it for the world!” all the while pushing aside the knowledge that a second, fiercer storm was headed this way.

This morning when I went to feed the chickens, I opened their outside door and it was slammed back in my face by a gust that left me covered with snow. I quickly closed the door and turned on the lights, something I wouldn't think of doing in less dire conditions. Let the chickens enjoy a day out of the wind.

Back in the house, my husband was taking a shower, in preparation for the brunch. As far as he's concerned, weather is never a reason to stay home.

I looked out the window. The snow was flying horizontally. I looked into the dogs' trusting eyes. They had no idea that I was thinking of abandoning them to set off in a blizzard, perhaps not to return for days. On the one horn, I hadn't been anywhere for quite a while, and badly needed human conversation and stimulation. Brunch would give us just the right respite before getting snowed in again. On the other horn, I could see us getting stuck out there somewhere, unable to get back at feeding time, or even disappearing into a snow drift in our attempts to reach home.

By now I was feeling totally impaled. I knew that there was no happy solution to this dilemma. Either we went to the brunch and I spent the entire time fretting about the fate of our abandoned animals, or we stayed home and I spent the entire day wishing we'd gone, and feeling bad for depriving Ed of his outing.

In the end, the animals won. I called my friend and expressed heartfelt regrets. Ed , scrubbed clean for the occasion, did not: 1. berate me for having animals (the animals in our household being entirely my idea), or 2. mock me for being a Vermonter unworthy of the name (our move to Vermont being entirely my idea, at least at first). This is the kind of thing that keeps a marriage going for a long, long time.

But I stayed stuck on the second horn for a while, the cabin-fever horn, the when-will-I-see-another-living-human-being (let alone a friend) horn. Then I reminded myself of the imminent arrival of Christmas and dedicated the afternoon to the arcane craft of making sachets.

This was a good summer for herbs, and I spent hour upon hour harvesting, drying, storing and labeling. A sachet is a little cloth bag filled with potpourri. For my potpourri I blended lavender blossoms, rose petals, scented geranium leaves, and mint. Not having a heavy-duty fixative such as orris root at hand, I used a handful of dried orange peel and rosemary leaves. Then I sprinkled lavender oil over everything, and mixed it in with my hands. It smelled divine, and so did my hands.

The only problem is that potpourri is supposed to be left to ripen, like a smelly cheese, for a number of weeks, and I only remembered to make it when the snow started falling a few days ago. I can't see why the stuff can't continue to ripen inside the little cloth bags, however. And besides, who is going to turn down a sachet?

When the sachets were done, I took the dogs into the front field for a while. The snow was up to their shoulders, and the only way they could travel was by porpoise-like leaps. Looking at them in the snow makes me wonder if there is some kind of dog-intoxicant in the stuff. They played and jumped and bumped and snarled and eventually Lexi decided she'd had enough, and headed back to the house, with Wolfie following. But by the time they got there, I was still at the bottom of the hill. Wolfie couldn't see me, so he charged back down to check on me, and then realized he couldn't see Lexi. He ran back to the house, where she was waiting, but I was still out of sight, trudging through knee-deep snow. He ran down until he could see me and instantly turned to look for Lexi. But he couldn't see her, so he ran back...

I finally arrived, rubbed them dry with a towel, and let them into the house, where they dropped to the floor like two sacks of potatoes and went to sleep.

Happy solstice, everyone!

My story “Death of a Wheelbarrow” came out (with a different title) in the Washington Post last month. You can find it at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/23/AR2008112301800.html

11 comments :

  1. ok, (a) i admire your satchel-making skills
    (b) we had similar weather yesterday and were forced to drive around in it because it was doug's mother's birthday
    and (c) I am off to the washington post site to read your story!

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  2. Ah! Ah! i guess it would be too much to ask that you turn it into a planter i your front yard. but ....

    here's a quick link for anyone who wants to click without cutting and pasting (and i need to teach you how to do this, i think):

    washington post story

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  3. (and i loved the piece. sorry. i meant to say that before hitting enter.)

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  4. Love the Washington Post piece and love the blizzard piece too. We missed you at brunch. I, who am utterly anxious about winter driving, couldn't believe how good the roads actually were. Not good enough for a long drive, which I'll be making tomorrow, the gods willing, but good enough for a short one!

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  5. Wow, I miss that wheelbarrow. Your story brought tears to my eyes! But we have our own--a yellow one Kathy brought to the relationship. Of the same vintage, same weathered handles and wobbly wheel, same noise as it bumps along. We had it out just the other day, to carry sandbags to the truck. When we flung the sandbags in, we heard the wheel hissing and actually watched it flatten...so we took them out and carried them in our arms.

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  6. Laurie, too bad it's too late for the lawn ornament idea! I'm impressed with the elegant quick link. Is it a trade secret among newspaper people?

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  7. Good driving to you, Indigo, and thanks for the goodies in the bag! There's nothing like fatwood for impatient/incompetent fire starters like me.

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  8. Alison, and how are your backs after the sandbag carrying?

    Will we ever get over Silver Run?

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  9. Good call on staying home. Blizzards are no time for social calls! Of course, this comes from someone who lives in an area where three inches of snow is considered cause for panic. We have no snow at the moment, only frozen mud. It will be a brown Christmas for us this year.

    Your wheelbarrow story was lovely.

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  10. hi, lali--

    send me an email and i will teach you to do these quick links. very easy.

    meanwhile, here's a link to a christmas essay i wrote that appeared in the star tribune today. (and i have another essay coming tomorrow.)

    irish essay

    and merry christmas!!

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  11. Joya, glad to know you're on my side. The roads, we found out later, were not too bad, but that, I maintain, was only BECAUSE we had stayed home.

    Frozen mud...well, it's better than the other kind. This is our first white Christmas in Vermont in five years!

    Have a happy one!

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