Firewood, snow and nog

Me with brother and sister in our snowy driveway, several years, or decades, ago.A stack of firewood forms the rungs of a ladder leading from the cold dark depths of winter to the gloriously warm, bright heights of spring. The past few days have clearly illustrated the cold dark depths. On the other hand, several people of my acquaintance would say, “At least it ain’t snow.”

According to the U.S. Weather Service, an inch of rain at 30F would, if it was snow, be about 10 inches deep. The colder the temperature, the more snow in an inch of rain; at 20F it could pile up 20 inches of shovelable, ski-able, white stuff. If the past four days had been snow where I live, She Who Must Be Loved would be pushing me to get out the snowthrower and remove the 4-to-5 inches of beautiful but heavy Christmas decoration.

The TV weather guy said that this week last year, 76 percent of the northeast was covered in snow. This year, only six percent – and that only in far northern New England.

He noted Nov. 5 has been the average date of first measureable snow in Buffalo, New York. That’s the town that typically is hammered by piles of so-called “lake effect,” Interstate highway closing, drifting over big trucks, snow. On the other hand, Dec. 3 is the latest Buffalo has ever seen its first measureable snowfall, and that was back in 1899. This week, that record will fall. More precipitation is in the forecast, but it will be too warm to snow.

In the words of John Babstone Lane Soule in the Terre Haute Express in 1851, “Go west, young man, go west.” (Nope, Horace Greeley was not the first to say that, at least not in print.) The operative advice to skiers around South Central Pennsylvania: head for the Rocky Mountains.

I have to admit, shoveling snow is more work these days than it was when I was a youngster. Or maybe not – except for the part where I live in the ‘burbs, where there are laws about just letting the stuff pile up on the sidewalks. Where I was raised, the sidewalk was merely the side of the road. Now we’ve got concrete pathways, I suppose to show is where the side of the road starts and the place where cars go ends.

But I have a snowthrower, and plenty of time. My only boss is the one watching through the living room window, and She Who Must Be Loved does not notice when I am late getting to my desk. Or if I come in for awhile, then go out later to finish the job.

Over the years, I’ve changed several of my strongly held beliefs about the definition of work. In my youth, cutting wood for the winter fire was not even at the bottom of any list of 100 things I wanted to do. When you’re 12, Christmas and cold weather is a long way off, and there are other priorities. When it’s wood cutting weather, it is also weather for swimming and wandering in the woods.

When I was 40,winter had started arriving quicker, and I knew stacking three cords of rock maple in the cellar would be something I would appreciate when the temperature went below freezing and the snow was falling sideways.

Everyone has traditions, and SWMBL has been counting the hours from the last bite of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie to the first weekend in December, when we will choose and decorate the Christmas tree.

We don’t have a fireplace anymore, but I do believe I’ll make some eggnog. With or without the egg, or snow.

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