February 7th, 2018

I’m going to step out into the storm…

…for a little bit.

I happen to like winter, at least for a while—and as long as there’s no ice storm. Today the big question is if and when the storm might turn to ice. But in the meantime, I like to go out and see what’s what.

Will the snow be heavy and wet or flaky and dry? Big flakes or small? I once ventured out after a class, many years ago, and the sight was enthralling. It was nighttime, but the streetlights shone on the largest flakiest driest snowfall I’d ever seen. It was magical. No way to make a snowball; the snow wouldn’t pack at all, but its beauty was phenomenal.

Now I look it up and see that such conditions are even more unusual than I’d thought. Wet snows are apparently the ones that tend to produce large flakes, and dry snows produce small.

What was going on that night? A mystery, that’s what.

[ANTICLIMACTIC ADDENDUM: I came back inside pretty darn quickly. It had just started to rain/ice over the snow that had already fallen. Ugh!]

34 Responses to “I’m going to step out into the storm…”

  1. JK Brown Says:

    “I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me.”

    ― Andrew Jackson

  2. Oldflyer Says:

    At Physcial Therapy the other day, she asked; “don’t you just love Southern California?”. I replied, trying to be diplomatic, well I loved Virginia. So, that started her on snow. I told her that it isn’t all bad, in moderation like we usually experienced in Virginia. I mentioned that I have pictures of the deer herd against the snow in the front yard, eating the corn I put out. (Oh, I know it is frowned on, but they didn’t object). I also have stunning pictures of a brilliant cardinal sitting beside the bird feeder against a snowy background. It is 85 here today; that is nice, but there isn’t much to be excited about–and Spring will just be a date on the calendar.
    For do-it-yourself shovelers, dry snow beats wet snow hands down.

  3. Sharon W Says:

    Enjoy the snow, Neo. Winter was my favorite season growing up in Chicago. My Dad made an ice pond in the yard every year and we spent all our non-school hours out there til late. He even wired lights and sound for us. Great memories. We moved to SoCal when I was 17. Oldflyer, our office built a Manor House on an historical property in Virginia for one of our L.A. clients and my husband and I were there in the winter. Brought back great memories of growing up in Park Ridge, IL…but with the Blue Ridge Mountains for added beauty. While in Middleburg we ran into some transplants from SoCal and even though the temps were unusually cold–they had no complaints. I intend to live where my children/grandchildren are, otherwise I would have already purchased a property in Warrenton for our retirement.

  4. Janet Says:

    I have the same memory, Neo, from a Christmas Eve many years ago. It felt like the entire world was still except for the falling flakes. The quiet was tremendous. And that was a few miles from Park Ridge, Sharon W, on the far northwest side of Chicago. I loved those winters, too.

  5. Gary D. G. Says:

    One early Feb morn, I just climbed the hill for my 8. When I stepped onto the quad and looked across at Goldwyn Smith, the air was sparkling violet. a fog had frozen and minuscule ice crystals were dancing in the light zephyrs.
    Anyone who’s never been “up north” will never have the good fortune to be exposed to that scene.

  6. Ken Mitchell Says:

    It’s 70 degrees and sunny here in Sacramento, CA. There are SOME advantages to living in California.

  7. John Guilfoyle Says:

    Keep the kettle hot for a nice “warm-me-up” on your return.

  8. Oldflyer Says:

    Sharon W, I understand. We left Warrenton, Va six years ago, after 25 years, because all of the younger generation had defected to SoCal. We drug our feet for a long time before leaving the area we loved dearly; but, the move has been positive for very particular reasons. Among them we have enjoyed rooting for the athletic endeavors of the youngest grandchildren (twin girl and boy) throughout high school, and on into their college careers.

    Ken Mitchell, one daughter lives outside of Placerville, between Sacramento and Tahoe. High enough to get a taste of winter. I do enjoy that area. I will also confess that we all were a little choked up over leaving Monterey after three years. That was a long time ago.

  9. MollyNH Says:

    As kids we used to say. Angels are having pillow fights.

  10. Skilly Says:

    One winter evening my senior year in college I left the campus library to head uptown to my apartment. As I stepped out I was delighted to see a deposit of one or two inches of new fallen snow. Everything was dead quiet, you could even hear the snowflakes clacking off the dried oak leaves that clung obstinately to their branches. As I passed Hall Auditorium I could hear the muffled sounds of symphonic music and moved inside to investigate. It was the university orchestra rehearsing Alan Hovhaness’ Mysterious Mountain . . oh the magic and wonder! The auditorium was empty so I slipped up to the balcony and eavesdropped for an hour. The experience and the music were ethereal and something I will never forget. When I left to go the winter storm had added another two inches to the accumulation. . . all still, all quiet, all white.

  11. Cornflour Says:

    Nothing like the luminous night of a full moon on new snow. Here we get about twenty feet of snow each winter, so there’s no need to wait years for the experience. If the coyotes are any measure, I’m not the only one inspired. Lots to like about the winter or I wouldn’t live in the UP.

  12. Sharon W Says:

    Your outing may have been disappointing Neo, but the comments it inspired were delightful.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Sharon W:

    And I’ll always have Paris.

    Or, rather, my memories of that long-ago snowfall that was so magical.

    I was thinking that if I ever moved away from an area with a real winter and lots of snow, I’d probably miss it. Granted, I wish winter were a bit shorter here, and I hate ice storms, but otherwise I find winter invigorating.

  14. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    On winter nights after a snowfall, while out on patrol, I would stop on a hilltop, and get out of the squad, and look at the stars in a sky cleared of dust, and gaze at the surrounding countryside, with the reflected starlight turnin the night into a near daylight, if the moon was full, you could see for miles.

    Being a deputy had it’s advantages.

  15. steve walsh Says:

    I’ve lived here all my life, in eastern MA that is, and in my 60+ years have experienced all the seasons in their endless variety. The 70 degree and sunny sort of day mentioned above is fine, but only in its proper time, which is not now.

    I went out for the afternoon walk with our dog today. While we were out the snow was ending, turning to mist and then rain. The precipitation dampens the sounds, which I find comforting.

    You’ll never hear me complain about the weather, I love it all.

  16. Philip Says:

    Sharon W, Park Ridge rang a bell in my head… my grandparents lived there during the Depression! And I grew up partly in Brookfield myself.

    About today’s storm, we had the impression here that it was going to be a doozy – work and lots of other places closed early. The mailman made it through, though, and I was half-surprised to get a package. (Wasn’t expecting it for another few days.) The snow was considerable, but being a dry powder, it was easy to move around. I was sick today, so stayed in generally.

  17. Gringo Says:

    I also liked the weather before a snowstorm. No wind, gray sky, and it was so humid you could practically drink the air. The air being inhaled into my lungs definitely was different.

    And how sunny and how blue the sky after the snowstorm had passed.

    My siblings and I have been going over some old slides, which including making snow angels. Or show higher than my waist. The big blizzard of ’78 had drifts that went onto the roof.

    When I hitched home from the library at midnight in the winter, I loved the final walk home, looking up at the starry sky. Moon reflecting off the snow. Austere but beautiful.

    Weather in TX has been colder than usual. What the heck. Hope the same pattern holds during the summer. 🙂

  18. charles Says:

    Yes, sometimes snow in New England can be beautiful! Truly beautiful.

    But, Neo, I’ll wait a few more weeks looking eagerly for your post about the beauty of “mud” season in New England. Ha! I’ll bet you can’t post such an essay and be sincere about its beauty, unless you do it as an April Fool’s joke. (oh, darn. I hope I didn’t give away any secrets to come?)

  19. Gringo Says:

    For do-it-yourself shovelers, dry snow beats wet snow hands down.

    No argument there.

    I can’t say that I miss the snow and long winters. However, by virtue of spending a lot of time outside during the winter, I didn’t mind the cold weather. Those who complain are those who stay inside.

    But by March I was tired of the snow. When it snows in April, you get the poet’s cruelest month.

  20. Gringo Says:

    charles, here is some mud season for you. (Bert and I) Marshall Dodge: MUDDY WALKING.

  21. neo-neocon Says:


    Two Tramps in Mud Time:

    The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
    You know how it is with an April day
    When the sun is out and the wind is still,
    You’re one month on in the middle of May.
    But if you so much as dare to speak,
    A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
    A wind comes off a frozen peak,
    And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

    A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
    And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
    His song so pitched as not to excite
    A single flower as yet to bloom.
    It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
    Winter was only playing possum.
    Except in color he isn’t blue,
    But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

    The water for which we may have to look
    In summertime with a witching wand,
    In every wheelrut’s now a brook,
    In every print of a hoof a pond.
    Be glad of water, but don’t forget
    The lurking frost in the earth beneath
    That will steal forth after the sun is set
    And show on the water its crystal teeth…

  22. Oldflyer Says:

    Gringo; but, then, Spring. At least I hope that you can eventually enjoy that experience. That was my point. In SoCal, we never experience that magnificent transition.

    I walk about sunrise each day. It is great. A blessing that I can do so. Usually, I remove my outer garments and gloves before I reach the apex of my route–about 1,500 ft. But, I hardly notice the blooms along he way, because they are with me year round. I think the Divinity gave us seasons for a reason. There is a definite spiritual awakening in Spring

  23. OldTexan Says:

    I grew up in the tornado part of the US where the storms come boiling up and from time to time start twisting on the parries. I love the weather and storms, I have seen eight inches of rain in an afternoon, blue northerner moving in with a drastic temperature drop. Crazy ice and blizzard storms anywhere from November to March and then a year or two when not much precipitation fell at all.

    Growing up in a county seat, agricultureal town where the crops defined the prosperity for the next year and at times the merchants had to carry the debts of the farmers through the next year, or two, we were very conscious of the weather and a flaky spring where the calves could die right after they born or a hail storm in April or May might cause a family to lose a farm kept the community tuned into the weather.

    One of my early memories is going out with my dad to see a farm blown away in a tornado, the father was killed not getting into the storm celler in time while he was tending to his livestock. The next day we say the debris of the house and household good lying in a pasture and at five years old, in 1950, I remember seeing a table spoon partially covered with dirt. It scared the crap out of me for years and year when another big thunderstorm moved through.

    Later I learned how to follow the storm cells as they developed and I have been able to watch a handful of twisters, from a distance and they made their way across the land and oft times left some real dramatic damage in their paths. Now I love keeping up with the weather and love watching what it brings our way..

  24. AesopFan Says:

    December’s dry snow in Colorado is a nuisance; the wet snow in the spring is a disaster.
    Our Christmas was so warm, my daffodils have already bloomed, despite being covered in snow last month.
    * *

    Skilly Says:
    February 7th, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    . . . all still, all quiet, all white.
    * * *
    Although, for a number of reasons, I believe Jesus was born in the Spring, the mystery of the winter nights that so many of us have experienced carries through in the symbolism of the Bleak Midwinter: Silent Night, Holy Night.

  25. DownUnder Says:

    My favourite non-family memories of Massachusetts are walking in snow during storms. The snow crunches underfoot and the cars creep by very slowly, because there’s no traction yet. It’s otherwise silent and the falling snowflakes swirl in the lamplight.

    However, after six years of shovelling wet snow and commuting two hours each way at 10 mph, I moved to Australia and don’t miss the snow at all. I spend Dec-Jan putting on sunscreen instead of layers.

  26. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Now that I own a vehicle that will get me to work through massive snowstorms, without the threat of a breakdown stranding me, I can appreciate the snow more than in my youth.
    Poetry was spoken of mud, but I’ve always equated late February with frozen mud, a desolation.
    No white, no green, no promise.

  27. Tuvea Says:

    I have always lived in the dysfunctional State of Illinois. With its high taxes and corrupt politicians. Have about 3 inches of snow now with another 6-12 on the way tonight.

    We are still here for one reason. Family.

    The majority of our immediate and extended families are both here in Northeastern Illinois. Unless they move we’ll likely stay put. ( perhaps we’re part Russian and love the misery? )

  28. Mike K Says:

    Spring will just be a date on the calendar.

    My wife says there are two seasons in California, summer and Christmas.

    I lived a year in New Hampshire while I went back to college after retiring. I was at Dartmouth and rented a house in Lyme, along the Lyme road. It was gorgeous and my kids all came back at holidays to spend them with me. I have movies of them sledding and ice skating at my neighbor’s pond.

    I was single at the time and might have stayed if a grant application had been funded. It wasn’t and I returned to California. It was 26 below Thanksgiving morning but I still loved it.

    I grew up in Chicago and the snow was so often dirty after a day. The snow in New Hampshire stayed clean for weeks. It wasn’t just that I could stay in and watch it. I was going to class every day. Had the grant come through, I might have stayed, as they offered me a job.

    Instead, I went back to CA, got back together with my wife after 25 years and we have moved to Arizona, which is easier as you get older.

  29. neo-neocon Says:

    Mike K:

    That saying of your wife parallels a New England saying that goes like this: There are two seasons in New England, winter and the Fourth of July.

  30. Dennis Says:

    Early in my career as a forester here in Montana I spent much of my time cruising timber. Winter was the best. You could snowshoe over the brush rather than fight through it and I remember times that you could stand still and hear the snow hissing down through the trees.
    I was brought up in Northern New York and the “mud season” in late February and march was sugaring season. Warm days and freezing nights, the smell of wood smoke from the evaporators. Wonderful.
    I have always felt that the calendar seasons were wrong. Spring, for me is when the buttercups bloom and the Redwings come back; summer starts with the lilac bloom and ends with the first frost in September. fall runs from first frost to Thanksgiving and the day after that winter is here.
    Even at my age I wouldn’t be comfortable without the seasons.

  31. Mike K Says:

    There are two seasons in New England, winter and the Fourth of July

    You forgot “Mud.” That starts about January and continues intermittently until May

  32. Mike K Says:

    in late February and march was sugaring season.

    During my year in New Hampshire, I helped my next door neighbor (We each had 5 acres) with sugaring because I wanted to see how it was done. He was a great guy and it was a lot of fun.

  33. charles Says:

    Neo (and Gringo)! Thank you for that – you really put a smile on my face.

  34. Ymar Sakar Says:

    It’s the supermoon light weather.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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