Snirt

Whether you like snow or hate it, it’s difficult to dispute that it is beautiful to watch. There is something particularly calming about looking out the window and seeing smooth, unblemished white conquering all traces of green, and flecks of cold crystal falling from the sky, covering everything in a sparkling sheen.

And it remains beautiful for about… two days. Maybe longer, depending on how much snow falls in the first place, and sometimes it’s gone overnight. But when there’s a decent chunk of snow, it can take a while to disappear.

When dreaming of snow and winter wonderlands, no one ever thinks about the later phases of it. After snow, we have snirt.

Snirt – as you can probably put together – is what happens when snow meets dirt. And it is unpleasant. It’s a gross, ugly eyesore, like heaps of cold, brown and black-stained, gravel-speckled sludge collecting on the sides of roads and places where the sun can’t quite reach, persisting long after the snow has vanished from lawns and gardens and driveways. It clings to curbs and parking lots like a disease, determined to destroy.

Snirt is that horrible in-between phase, the last pesky remnant of winter that seems to take forever to go away… and it does, eventually. The foul mountains of old snow will melt, and it will be safe to wash your car without fear of sneaky snirt attacks. Warmth will return. Spring will come. And then green grass shines through, once more.

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Mother Nature

Mother Nature chose to celebrate the coming of spring in an unusual way, here in the northeast. She did not bring us flowers, birdsong, or gentle showers and soft sunlight.

She brought us a storm. A long one, at that.

Thus, my tiny pocket of PA found itself buried in a little over a foot of snow on the first day of spring.

Which – to be frank – is bullshit. Mother Nature had all winter to give us weather like this, and she chose to slam us with snow on the first day of spring. It’s cruel.

I mean, in all fairness, we didn’t get socked too hard this winter – not nearly as bad as our northern/New England brethren, who have fared far worse. We had maybe one “big” storm last month, and it was only about four inches of snow, which all melted by noon the next day because it was 60 degrees. Aside from that, all the other wintry events have been brief spurts of flurries or a minor coating to an inch, which typically disappears within the next few days. So I probably shouldn’t complain. I mean, I have lived in the northeast for 21 years, so this weather isn’t new to me, and if I move south the humidity will turn my hair into a perma-fro, so that’s not quite an option at this time.

We’ve had a few close calls this year, up until now. Just a couple of weeks ago the meteorologists were warning us about a potential 6-8 inches… which fizzled to nothing. So I was skeptical of this past week’s forecast, but when I saw the first flakes tumble down from the sky on Tuesday morning, I knew they’d actually called it right. Actually, they initially called for 4-6 inches and it turned into about 12, but whatever.

Mild winter activity like we experienced over this past season isn’t enough to send heartier members of the public scrambling to the grocery store for milk, bread, and eggs, though many will flock to fill their shelves. I once went to the store the day before an alleged “storm” and legitimately needed bread, but it was so packed in the bread aisle I had to settle for corn muffins instead.

I suppose it was too much to hope for that we could escape from winter completely unscathed – not even the first day of spring could stop the fickle Mother Nature from sending a blustery blizzard from sweeping over the region. I blame the groundhogs, honestly.

I had to call out of work for the third time in 9 years because I was buried, spent a good chunk of time shoveling heavy snow and thus destroying my noodle-esque arms, and worked on some writing while sipping mint hot cocoa. So, though Mother Nature decided to be cruel earlier this week, it was not all bad – if it gives me a bit more time to write, it is acceptable in my book.

Besides, the snow is already melting… and soon, spring will be here in earnest. And, after this last storm, that is certainly something to look forward to, so long as Mother Nature doesn’t have any more wintry surprises left for us.

Worth 1000 Words #9: Snowtober 2011

Some of you, particularly those of you who reside in the northeastern United States, might remember the freak snowstorm of October 2011, which resulted in near state-wide power outages and general icy desolation in some areas.

383486_2063359704083_2085259487_nIt was Halloween weekend. My parents were visiting for a few days, and would be taking my grandmother (with whom I lived for a year and a half during college) back to PA with them for the winter. Saturday, afternoon, my father dropped me off at my second job, and all proceeded as normal… until the first fateful flakes began to fall. Within an hour or so, it was a full-on snow assault. I made it almost all the way through my shift, worriedly peeking out of the windows as white began to conquer the parking lot, until my dad appeared to pick me up and I bolted out the door.

The journey home was probably the most tense, stressful car ride of my life, but thankfully, my father is a skilled driver and we made it safely home. Had I been by myself, I never would have made it; the highway was a wasteland, the snow plummeted in droves, and cars were careening all over the place as folks tried to make it to their destination, dodging downed tree limbs and power lines.

Once back at home, the power had already gone out, so we dined on cold chicken by candlelight, dug out the spare blankets to stave off the bitter cold, lit a fire in the fireplace and played UNO to fight boredom, and mourned as our electronics slowly died. As the snow continued to fall, I fell asleep (beneath several layers) to the ominous snap-and-thud sound of breaking tree branches in the forest behind the house, praying that none would fall on the roof and crush me during the night.

The next day, New England was buried in snow/ice hell. Power was lost in a huge portion of the region (including almost all of Connecticut, if I remember correctly – I lived about ten minutes from the border) and because the weather was so wonky (it was warm right before the storm, then warm again immediately after) there was extensive damage that reached far beyond just NE. After I called out of work for the day, my parents and my grandmother left me to endure Snowtober alone, since I hadn’t heard anything about classes being cancelled for the following day or any time after. TO THIS DAY I STILL CANNOT FATHOM WHY THEY DID NOT IMMEDIATELY CANCEL CLASSES DUE TO THE DEVASTATION but regardless, I sat and waited it out. It was cold, boring, and I had no means of contact with the outside world. I did manage to get my homework done, though; we were covering Emerson and Thoreau in my American Literature class, and, in a true display of irony, our assignment was to read “Nature.” I didn’t laugh, nor did I develop a deep appreciation for transcendentalism as I paged through my literature textbook by candlelight, munching on a stale bagel.

I am proud of my alma mater, but I was NOT pleased to be going to class the following morning when over half of campus still had no power, despite the fact that the snow had already nearly melted. I am grateful, however, that the Writing Center where I worked still had power… I was able to charge all of my electronics in preparation for the long, dark night ahead. While I was there, doing homework and getting warm, the school released a statement announcing that classes were cancelled for the rest of the week, and students were advised to return home if possible.

This was AFTER they had us go to Monday classes, mind you; so classes were cancelled until the following Monday. I only went to one class on Monday, too, since night classes were cancelled and one of my professors wasn’t able to make it to campus regardless. It was very difficult to tamp the lid down on my rage, since I’d missed a free ride home with my parents the day before, and I couldn’t go for the less-expensive Amtrak option due to the massive power outage. Luckily, my dad loaned me money for a last minute plane ticket (which is quite a price-gouge for a day-before splurge) so I wouldn’t need to drive 6 hours solo through two snowpocalypse-plagued states in order to make my way home.

Driving home from campus that night (after the Writing Center closed) was a total nightmare, since power was still out and none of the traffic lights were operational. It was like driving through the zombie apocalypse sans zombies – though I was pleasantly surprised to see that my across-the-street neighbors, who were lovely people, had left some chopped wood for my fireplace on the front stoop. Things were looking up… until the next morning, I awoke to the shrill, shrieking tones of my burglar alarm blaring throughout the house. There were no intruders, I think it had something to do with the power outage. The alarm company also wouldn’t shut it off, because the house and account are not in my name, so I had to leap through several hoops to get them to have mercy on me (and my neighbors).

Less than five hours later, I’d been ferried to the airport by my godmother, and was nestled safely at home in PA with functional power. While at home, I did manage to snag 36 extra hours of work and by Thursday, I heard that power had been restored to my area of New England – which meant there had been 5 straight days of no power. I returned home on Sunday evening and life resumed as normal, as all traces of the Snowpocalypse began to fade away, and autumn picked up once more. It’s difficult to imagine how much difficulty and suffering a one-night snowfall can bring, but I hope to never experience another storm of the same magnitude ever again.