Janet Sheridan: When will it happen?
January 5, 2012
We can't stop talking about it.
We look through unfrosted windows at visible ground, walk ice-free sidewalks next to parched pavement, drive cars with no need to brush away snow, and talk about the untimeliness of these actions.
When we meet, we exchange words like unseasonal, unbelievable, eerie, and bizarre.
We question long-time residents, "When was the last time you saw December fade into January with so little snow?"
Their answers lack consensus.
As a friend and I walked with jackets unzipped around the high school track, she told me, "I'd expect this weather and enjoy it in April, but this is December, for goodness sake. I'm mentally prepared for snow this time of year, and the lack of it unsettles me."
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I know what she meant. Each morning when I pull the blinds and look out at a scene more typical of spring, I gape in disbelief: a baby surprised by the 20-second peek-a-boo.
In our yard, confused plants struggle to awaken, the grass looks over-exposed, and dormant shrubs seem stark without a layer of snow to soften them.
Around town, lonely roof rakes lean at the ready below unburdened eaves; and Christmas sleds sit abandoned on frost-spiked grass, while last summer's bicycles wander at will.
Yesterday, I noticed several matched snow blowers lined up outside Murdochs; their unmarred shiny red glow made them seem embarrassed by their inactivity and lack of customer appeal.
"If this doesn't change, " I caution those who'll listen, "next summer we could have water police patrolling our streets looking for over zealous sprinkling, as they do in Carson City when the Sierra Nevadas don't collect enough snow."
During the holidays, Joel and I compared this year's weather with four years ago when our children and grandchildren visited.
Our loved ones skied, skated, fanned arms and legs for snow angels, leaped out of the hot tub to roll in snowdrifts, and flew down hills on anything that would slide.
They built two snowmen in our yard: a sophisticated fellow with expressive features from the older crowd and a startling, headless version from the little ones, who managed to drop each of the six heads they made when they tried to lift it into place.
Finally, they gave up and formed the shattered heads into a fort from which they threw snowballs at their snowman, who was all body and no brain.
This year, had they visited, we'd have worn out all the board games first, and then one another's patience.
On Christmas day, Joel and I hiked Cedar Mountain, driving to the picnic area and trailhead on a road we had to traverse on snowshoes the year before.
We exclaimed at the ease of our passage in hiking boots along a trail packed with an inch or two of snow and marveled at the scene spread below: a few cringing floes of threatened snow surrounded by a brown-yellow sea.
We peeled off gloves and shed layers as the unobstructed sun soaked through the cold air and warmed us, like a smile seeping through bleakness to cheer a sad soul.
Driving home, I thought about our area's lack of snow. Then, burdened by my poor understanding of science, I formed a murky image in my mind: El Nino, or his twin, La Nina, or both, churning far out in the ocean, planning a sneak attack, vowing with foggy breath to beat those stubborn folks in Craig into submission this time, or die trying.
As I entertained myself with thoughts of evil twins plotting to vanquish us, a flood of questions popped into my head:
When will it happen? How long will it last? How deep will it be?
Will we remember how to behave in snow?
Will it engulf March, April, and May? Will enough accumulate to meet our many needs? Will the Yampa River flow enlivened and refreshed or become stingy with its lifeblood?
And when will we find out?