Background Switcher (Hidden)

Challishing* in Whipple

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm sitting at a table alive with daffodils and bicolored tulips in vases. I had to buy those. Two huge appleblossom pink amaryllis tower over them. Those, I grew from babies. Outside, the ground and sky are stubbornly, resolutely white. It was a weekend. Friday afternoon Bill and I hand-carried a ton or so of music equipment up a snowy hill in a blizzard to the van, because we couldn't pull down to the basement door. Loaded that. Bill, the kids and I drove in two cars to Columbus in a three-hour, white-knuckle nightmare of slush and overturned cars so we could play our Swinging Orangutangs gig for the Ohio Ornithological Society. The other Orangs made it, but everyone was hollow-eyed and shell-shocked by the time they staggered in. Something about seeing trucks losing control in front of you takes the shine off winter driving.

The people who were able to get there at all enjoyed it, and so did we. The band busted down the doors and had a great time, ate fire-hot chicken wings and drank bad margaritas at midnight and then flopped in our hotel. That was nice. I drove home with the kids on Saturday afternoon, ran out of gas, coasted down the providential exit ramp, walked to a station, bought a $9 one-gallon gas can, and spent twenty minutes just trying to figure out how to assemble the childproof nozzle and cap so I could put the damn gallon in my dead car. By then it had started snowing again, and I resumed my death grip on the wheel to guide us home. The roads were lousy; our driveway was very nearly impassable. Another foot. Another freakin' foot of snow. What is going on??

Sunday morning I shoveled leaden wet snow for two hours, and practically had to call a Whipple Township trustee meeting to get our driveway plowed out so we could have 19 people over Sunday afternoon for an early birthday celebration for Bill of the Birds, who was still in Columbus volunteering for the OOS event (he's the emcee with the mostest). I had raided my favorite stores in Columbus--Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. I bought the biggest fattest Whole Foods spears of Mexican asparagus that you have ever seen; I was making sweet potato hash, baby Swiss quiche and slow-roasted baby back ribs for 20, and in my book having all that fabulous fresh food and an impassable driveway is an unqualified Domestic Emergency. Luckily the trustees agreed, at least in theory, and a huge tractor with a blade showed up to deliver this resolute foodqueen from disaster in her snowbound castle. The dinner was a smashing success. If I had had my choice, I wouldn't have started a full day of heavy cooking with several hours of shoveling wet snow and finding someone to remove same from a quarter-mile-long driveway. But this winter, at least for me, is all about having no choice. I feel like a feedsack full of boulders today.

Any more, our house feels like McMurdo Station, the outside having changed from my second home to an inhospitable, barely-navigable place that makes me miserable. The snow is a mess to walk through, all crusty and bumpy. The idea of taking a hike in it is about as appealing as pounding my shins with a hammer. Chet and I have grown fat and lazy in our enforced confinement. There was one day--one day--when we saw a few bare patches of grass, but by nightfall it was being covered up again, and within two days we had another foot of it on the ground.

After my shoveling and plowing adventure, I decided that I had one good thing to say about the latest foot of heavy wet snow. You can grab handfuls of it and scrub the starling sh*t off the bird feeders.

There. There's your silver lining.

Hence the vases upon vases of daffodils and tulips, the blooming amaryllis, the orchids. I am challishing**, and these are the decorations in my hospital room.

a detail of a new Guatemalan quilt I just broke out for the occasion.

My neighbor Beth said she saw a woodcock wandering along the side of our road. Poor thing. He should have been singing, displaying and mating for two weeks now. Instead he ekes out a living on almost nothing. I don't even want to think about what happens to woodcocks who arrive on schedule to find more than a foot of snow on their lekking and feeding grounds. I can't imagine what they find to eat. Maybe they go into the woods and poke around in the unfrozen parts of streams.

We're out of sunflower seed. Again. Gotta buy another 150 pounds of seed next trip into town. Gotta make another sextupled batch of Zick Dough. Gotta keep those bluebirds going. Gotta get another 40 lb. of corn for the four whitetail fawns who are losing all fear of me, the Good Corn Fairy. Gotta toss out the old pork roast for the three crows I adore, who will now come up right under the studio window and cock their bright eyes at me. If I look directly at them they turn their backs and wigwag away, arms crossed behind their backs, as if the last thing on their minds was begging, but they're begging, make no mistake. I've got them right where I want them, and they've got me. I love, love, love my crows.

I stick my nose into the daffodils and breathe deeply of their polleny yellow scent. The tulips, fainter but sweetly heady. They keep growing in the vase, their long stems twisting like curious necks. I don't know how they do that, grow with no bulb or roots as fuel, but I'm glad they do. Something has to be growing in this wasteland.

Never have I been so winter-weary, so thoroughly pummeled, pounded and beaten by a winter. I can't remember what it feels like to take the wheel of a car and not worry about the road conditions. I can't remember T-shirts or a warm breeze lifting the downy hairs on my arms. I can't remember going outside without a hat and parka.

So I fill the vases with storebought spring, and wait.

** a lovely Yiddish word meaning, "to die slowly, inch by inch."


I love this one Julie.

I hereby nominate this post for a Pulitzer!

Gah - it's like you wrote this post from inside my head! I'm right there with you (except that I have no store-bought flowers to brighten things up... maybe I should stop at the store on the way home.) If it doesn't warm up soon, I'm ready to get my blow dryer and an extension cord and start melting the darn snow myself.

Wow. Lovely, honest prose that, and w/ Yiddish too, a new word to me.
With love and thanks,XOM.

Posted by Anonymous March 4, 2010 at 1:35 PM

This is a great ode to the winter that just wouldn't leave...but have will, and all will be right with the world again...we Canadians know this to be true.

Super post, from a super postess. I have loads of daffodils up I wish I could send you. I'll waft the fumes your way. And who knew carrying a tune would be so strenuous?

Couldn't agree more. This winter weather has long overstayed its welcome, and seems determined not to take a hint.

It sounds as if you're making the best of it, and that's no small accomplishment.

Posted by Anonymous March 4, 2010 at 5:16 PM

I don't know why, but I read this post from the bottom up. It's like I wanted to know the sweet daffodil and tulip resolution first, and then work my way up to the relentless snow, the steely grip on the steering wheel, the child-proof gas can. I read books like this sometimes, so my heart can rest knowing all is well, even if we are all challishing.

Beautiful post, julie.

For your four little fawns - Have you read Elizabeth Marshall's "The Hidden Life of Deer"? Her farm in New Hampshire reminds me a lot of yours there in Ohio.

As for this winter, we've had three times the normal amount of snow for Greensboro and of course, the climate change deniers say it means there is no global warming. Two points that they are missing is that warm air holds more moisture than cold (hence the incredible snows we've been having) and weather is not climate. Having been in Columbus for the Blizzard of 1978, this go-round of snow for you guys sounds so much worse.

Aggh! Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has written about DEER? I devoured her cat and dog books--making tracks to the library to grab this one tomorrow!! (She was my freshman year roommate's mom, what a coool mom she was)

And...Weather is not climate. I know several people I would like to SHOUT this to. Thank you for that--it's worth its weight in gold.

And Robin, reading it backerds. Hahahahaha.

I'm glad you all are liking this post. It was extruded under pressure.

hang in there. Your spring will come. Due to the upset weather basket we have bumblebees buzzing and flowers already i bloom..including all my magnolias.Seattle.

I think this horrible winter has inspired you. You might feel weary and winter-beaten but you are writing better than ever, Julie.

I love this post and your photos but you do sound so weary from the snow and all. I wish spring comes quickly for you.


I bought myself two bunches of daffodils today, and spent the week posting pictures of last spring's garden for my family in Minnesota and elsewhere who feel like they too are witnessing the start of the next Ice Age!

I think we are all in that stage now. Enough. We've had enough... can you hear us Mother Nature????

Thank you for putting into words all of these pent up feelings about this Winter!!!! And for sharing those gorgeous flowers and quilt with us!!

Oh, Julie. I got my dose of early spring down south, and now that I'm back in PA, the snow on the ground, the frozen mounds of dirty ice in the corners of parking lots, and the lip-cracking cold wind are only bearable because I know that spring will come again. I've seen it! It's coming!

Just a big happy smile - a gratitude to Julie smile for the photos and for sharing concepts and longings in my own heart this very long cold winter.

Such a wonderful post with wonderful images. Even possumlady, who lives for colder weather, is to the breaking point--AND, I can't even have flowers at home. Cats jump up to chew the leaves then so graciously jump down to throw them back up on my area rug.

I especially love the part when you can't remember what it feels like going outside without a parka, etc. It reminded me of the LOTR Return of the King when Sam is trying to get Frodo back on his feet:

Sam: Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon and the orchards will be in blossom, and the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And the whistle in the summer barley in the Lower fields. And eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?

Frodo: No, Sam. I can't recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I'm naked in the dark. There's nothing--no veil between me and the wheel of fire.

I think you need to buy yourself some strawberries. So what if they are trucked in from California, or Mexico??

Extruded Under Pressure...let's put that on a T-shirt, shall we?? :)

Hang in there everyone! Spring really does ALWAYS come. Of course, that's easy (and strange) for me to say here in NH where we are oddly without feet upon feet of snow. Truly a strange winter. I can empathize with you Julie - I think we had the same driveway as you for years and when the winter really laid it on thick we had to hire a back loader to make our tunnel-of-snow driveway negotiable again. The stories you'll tell when this winter is a mere memory!

I saw the fattest ring neck pheasant I've ever seen last week sitting in the bare branches of a tree on our road. I think this is the latest I've ever seen one after they've been stocked...I wonder if more of them have survived this year due to the mild weather we've had? Hmmm.

I'm so happy other people love crows. They look good in the snow, too, those shiny black gentlemen. Enjoy them and the challishing in those delicious quilts and thanks for the great post...I'll do a little melt dance for you from here.

Um, I've actually been loving the snow (she says in a small voice, ducking out of the way of flying recriminations *lol*)... But then, I have a big truck and my neighbor owns lots of really big trucks; thank heaven for boys and their toys, er, bulldozers. (Could have done without the power outage; my next house will have a stove for heat and at the very least a hand pump for the well!)

I checked this morning and discovered that my crocuses are up about a half an inch and the coral honeysuckle is popping out new leaves practically before your eyes. At least three woodcock survived the three+ feet of snow and were displaying in the yard last week. The earth turns round and round no matter how much snow is on the ground, and life goes on.

But even I am looking forward to wearing a few less layers of clothing!

Thank you as always for the great post and photos.

We Hill Country Texans thought we had a terrible winter - one real snow, one snow flurry, lots or rain and the coldest night in about 15- years - 14 degrees. Lots of our plants died because we had begun to think we had moved from zone 8B to 9. But I guess it could have been worse.

Now we are getting our first bluebonnets and jonquils. Hopefully you'll soon get your own spring flowers.

We Hill Country Texans thought we had a terrible winter - one real snow, one snow flurry, lots or rain and the coldest night in about 15- years - 14 degrees. Lots of our plants died because we had begun to think we had moved from zone 8B to 9. But I guess it could have been worse.

Now we are getting our first bluebonnets and jonquils. Hopefully you'll soon get your own spring flowers.

I loved this post. And I love learning the new word that describes me perfectly this horrid winter. I also have store-bought spring on the table. It helps a little, as do the birds at the feeders, a good book, warm dogs, and a glass or two of wine.

I love crows, too. We built a platform feeder for them about 4 feet above the ground. It took them over a year to trust it enough to land on it and feed even though they would feed anywhere on the ground under or around it. I like it because I can give them table scraps and my dogs can't get them. Win/win situation.

I loved this post! Among all the misery, your healthy coping skills shine through. Flowers on the table, fat asparagus, celebration with friends, beautiful Guatemalan bedspread. Hey, life is good . . .
(Of course, I'm one of those guilt-ridden folks from way-warmer-than-usual Seattle - I can talk.)
Thanks again.

[Back to Top]