Archive for January, 2013

I made my usual drive from upstate to downstate on Sunday.  My car was packed with provisions for the week: My washed and folded clothes, two computers, and energy snacks to sustain me through my teaching days. The students have just come through Regents exams week and it will be good to move back to real learning.

Driving through the valley and the Catskill Mountains on a day of brilliant sunshine and graced with linen-white snow, I passed tired hamlets and run down homes, abandoned general stores, and old farms weary with age. So much of the human landscape in upstate looks this way, and winter makes it even sadder.

I passed cold, rushing streams half choked with snow laden boulders and ice. On a string of ponds I saw brave people ice fishing.  I always wonder about those who fish on frozen ponds.  I might like to try it sometime; for an hour.

Ice fishing

I stopped to take this picture of those hardy souls out on the ice.  In the parking lot above the pond, some of the winter anglers were packing their gear into the back of pickup trucks and wearing camouflage outerwear.  I wondered: If you are going to wear “camo” while ice-fishing, shouldn’t it be white?

Until the past week, this had been a mild winter in the northeast.  Then our friends to the north sent us a week-long blast of cold, and there were days when it was almost unbearable to be outside. This might be fine weather in northern Canada, but here in downstate it is a peril.  One day last week, the closest parking spot I could find was some eight blocks away, and by the time I made it to my school my eyes were tearing and the water droplets were dripping from my nose. “’It’s-not-freezing-cold,” my daughter would say. (Say it quickly.)

I’ve lived in cold weather states most of my life, including two winters in Fairbanks, Alaska.  With a few years in northern Vermont, twenty winters in Maine, and quite a number in upstate, I know what winter means.  Still, there is not much that can prepare you for day after day of bitter cold weather and wind chill factors that approach, and then sink, below zero Fahrenheit.  That’s been our weather lately.

The days are getting longer in our latitude.  It is noticeable.  But, there is still a lot of winter left in these climes. Weekends, when I am back home on the farm, I toss log after log into the woodstove.  In the Bronx, I wipe the tears from my cheeks, the snot from my nose, and pray my classroom is warm. The goal at this time of year is, as Van Morrison sings, to get through January and February.



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