The first snowflakes descended around 5:30 PM. I thought little of it; there wasn’t that much snow in the forecast, and by the time it amounted to anything everyone should home and snug. Little did we know.
Portland doesn’t do well in snow. We’re much more accustomed to endless gray days in the winter, with light rain coming often enough that the ground never really dries out. Snow, when it comes, will melt within a couple days, providing temporary havoc while it visits.
I first moved to Oregon from Minnesota in the late 70’s, initially to Eugene, 100 miles south of Portland. Being unemployed and broke I had little to do but sit in my boarding house room and listen to the radio. One winter morning the DJ’s talked about how Portland had 4″ of snow, and the city was basically shut down. I about fell off the bed laughing.
To be fair, Portland isn’t equipped to handle snow. Plows are few and far between, and gravel is preferred to salt to deal with icy roads. Folks from the Midwest may wonder why cars aren’t all rusted out here – that’s why. We’ve also got more hills to slide down, the midwest is much flatter. But mostly, folks just don’t know how to drive in snow. The same folks who forget how to drive in rain after a few dry summer months simply have no clue how to deal with packed snow and ice, sometimes abandoning their vehicles in mid lane rather than deal with knuckles white from something other than cold.
So when the forecasted 1-4″ got buried under 6″ before we even went to bed, we knew it would be a good excuse to enjoy being retired, stay in, and avoid the craziness.
Pillows of snow continued to build overnight as we hugged their warmer cousins while abed. By morning, piles of puffy white, 12-14 inches (30-35 cm) deep stretched across the yard. My thought went to the birds.
In particular the hummingbirds. Wizards of flight, but so tiny, and needing so much energy to support their frenetic lifestyle – how can we help keep them alive in the winter’s cold? We use a strategy of rotating feeders when we have a below-freezing snap. Although I have seen the little beasties use feeders that must be little better than a sweetened ice cube, liquid is better. Easier to get nourishment, warmer to consume.
But on this morning the snow had buried the feeder. There was no way for this fellow to access even an icy meal. No wonder, when he saw me coming with the fresh, warm nectar, he set aside his fear, flew up, and fed while the feeder was still in my hand. He couldn’t have been more than a foot away.
While my wife and I were not inclined to dig out the car, we did want to go exploring and see how all that snow transformed the neighborhood. Out came the boots and coats, and of course, that new camera I gave myself for Christmas.
We didn’t get out until the afternoon. By that time the snow elves had already been at work.
Snow is transformative. Things that might be ho-hum or even ugly under normal conditions take on a new beauty.
Even something as routine as a tree next to a roof assumes unexpected patterns.
Swinging by the park, we found we were not the only ones enjoying a winter outing.
But in time we had to return home, to a chore and a test.
The good news: both tasks were one and the same. The bad news: the task was shoveling snow. The test was for my back; how well was the herniated disk healing?
Folks who’ve been following for a while know I screwed up my back last September. It’s been healing, slowly. But shoveling snow? Including the packed down stuff on the sidewalk? Yikes!
Fortunately, it held up pretty well, better than expected. I did discover I was out of shape – many huff and puff breaks, leaning over the shovel, waiting for the rapid pitter-patter of complaint from my heart’s aortic chambers to wane
The next day remained cold, but the heavens cleared. It was another excuse to check out the snowy world, only this time with a Portland winter rarity; blue skies and snow.
|Poles and Pillows|
Portland doesn’t do snow well, but it’s expert at moss. It’s not often you see them side by side.
And so the timid winter sun called out its farewells, taking an early exit to visit with warmer parts of the world. I too shall sign off, waiting like a groundhog for the next sign to come out of hibernation. Until then, remember, spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming…