What You Will Not Find Here

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 9 Outdoors: In the Lee of the Farmhouse

Saturday, March 3, 1:15-2:00 p.m.

There is no marking the driveway today, except for a line of widely spaced and frail orange flags set out to guide the plow that hasn’t come. No plow today. Roads are not even plowed, owing to downed trees and power lines in the area. Power is out all over northwest Michigan.

It was, however, a relatively warm night and is, as yet, a relatively warm winter day. The snow is heavy and wet. While this is perfect for snowmen and snow forts, it’s dangerous in the load it creates on lines and many roofs. A metal roof, however, sheds snowload without a second thought. There is a low rumble as the load begins to move, then a whoosh as it slides to the edge, and finally a ground-shaking thud as it falls to earth, shaking old windows. On the ground today, then, along the east and west (back and front) sides of the house, an outdoor wall of extra insulation rises, a wall that only needed to be broken through in front of the doorway.

Everything outdoors is white today. Trees are all but engulfed in wind-driven snow, wet and clinging. Large objects such as the brush pile and a garden wagon full of gathered branches appear as mysterious, featureless mounds of white. With  foot to a foot and a half of heavy snow fallen overnight, weeds and grasses are almost completely buried, and a glistening, empty expanse stretches over the meadow behind the house until broken in the distance by the first, youngest cherry trees and, beyond them, the edge of the eastern woods.

Sounds (except when roof snowload is in motion) are few and subtle: a background moaning of wind in high branches, a closer percussive crackling as icy branches shift their weight in the light wind, and close up the sound counterpart of the visual glistening, a pervasive, bright, shimmering, tiny glass-shattering whisper, a brittle susurrus, as new snow crystals touch and blow across the tops of deep drifts.

Very little surface is not covered by snow, from the now-white popples in the grove to the sturdy black walnut and basswood trees between grove and house. Where the bark is exposed, as it is on sections of the basswood trunk, that surface appears darker than usual, by contrast with the adjacent snow-covered bark and because it, the exposed bark, is wet with snowmelt. 

From the north, perhaps somewhere in the creekside willows, a lone crow calls repeatedly and insistently before falling silent. A smaller bird nearby gives a single forlorn chirp. It is still snowing, and little creatures are mostly lying low today. 


Dawn said...

Isn't it interesting how snow quiets sound. Maybe because fewer things are moving, but it feels like more than that...like the world is wearing a muffler over it's voice, everything is just covered with a thin layer of quiet.

When I was staying up in Northport, March of 2010, I went for a walk and ended up sitting quietly in a little patch of woods. So much to hear and see and absorb. But I became cold; the damp tree trunk I sat on soaked through my jeans. So I only stayed 5 or 10 minutes. I am so impressed that you are sitting quietly for so much longer and observing so much more!

P. J. Grath said...

It's wonderful, isn't it? Hearing the quiet sounds you don't usually hear is exciting and calming at the same time.

As for the comfort factor, I'll be doing a whole post soon, either here or on one of my other blogs (maybe not here because it will have a lot of photographs), about how I have kept from getting too cold. I've got the title ready. You'll like it, Dawn!