snow

Posted by Ellen

 It's been a while since a puppy picture, so: this dog was caught on camera somewhere in one of those mid-Atlantic states.

The Washington Post today pointed out that now that the city had broken the old season-total snowfall record, this winter's snowfall was approaching the average for . . . Anchorage, Alaska, and Portland, Maine. I don't know about Anchorage, but in Portland our snowfall this year is way below average. And even when it's average, we don't get the whole winter's worth all in a couple of blizzards; I'm sure that would slow things down even up here.

Those of you outside the usual snowbelt have been asked, I'm sure, to find the fire hydrants in your neighborhood and dig them out. The fire fighters need the help, and I'm sure the dogs will be grateful also.

Tags:
Posted by Ellen

 

Only in Washington, D.C., in the year 2010, does a snowball fight feature lawyerly liability disclaimers, new-media marketing, and streaming traffic reports.

A heavily promoted snowball fight at Dupont Circle on Saturday attracted about two thousand participants, most of them adults, even though the snow was said to be too fluffy for decent snowballs. For every actual snowball thrower there appear to have been several would-be cell phone videographers, whose work may be assessed on YouTube. Six police cars waited nearby, but nothing happened. Some people attacked the fountain in the center of the circle by throwing snow at the people defending the fountain; the fountain is still there, so perhaps the defenders "won."

Facebook pages and Twitterings promoted the event. Lawyers were involved; a disclaimer on Facebook warned: "You are coming to Dupont Circle Park on Saturday, Feb 6, 2010, to play snowballs voluntarily. The people spreading the word about the happening are not preparing any special equipment or conditions and may not be held responsible for your decisions and/or actions."

Radio station WTOP broadcast warnings to motorists, urging them to avoid Dupont Circle and other snowball-fight locales. Although the Dupont Circle "fight" attracted the most attention, Washingtonians apparently were out pelting one another with snow all over town. This picture came from some allegedly voluntary snow play in Meridian Hill Park, where an artist was using an old piece of artwork as a shield.

Posted by Ellen

This has been an El Nino winter in California, meaning that the Pacific breezes have functioned as a conveyor belt bringing storm after storm into the state. Sheets of cold rain blow through the coastal cities and into the Central Valley, where the storms bump up against the Sierra Nevada mountains, try to crawl up over them, and get stuck. A single storm can last four or five days in the Sierras and dump 50 or 60 inches of snow or more at higher elevations. This year, the Sierras are by far the snowiest part of the country.

The cabin in these pictures is near Mammoth, California, a ski area where all the snow is properly appreciated. The snow in the doorway represents one night's accumulation.

Here in Maine, we've had our share of snow, followed by a January thaw last week--tons of rain that left things looking almost springlike till the cold came back. And in Maryland, it's snowing even as I type. But I hear tell that soon it will be February.

Posted by Ellen

Carol and Sandy Fuchs spent a week in  northern Sweden recently, including New Year's at the Ice Hotel near Kiruna, about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The sun never rose above the horizon the whole time they were up there, though the dark of night faded into a sort of twilight for a few hours in the middle of each day.

They tried dogsledding and snowmobiling and visited with reindeer herders. The town of Kiruna is a thriving iron-mining center, where the hundred-year-old mine is nowhere near played out; it is currently expanding closer and closer to the town, which is gradually being relocated to escape the blasting and other mine activity.

The basic structure of the Ice Hotel is made of snow; in November each year, snowguns spray artifical snow over arched metal forms, which are removed after a couple of days, leaving igloo-like tunnels. Interior walls are made of two-ton ice blocks cut from the Torne River and returned to the river when the place starts to melt in April or May. The ice is cut in March and stored for the next winter's construction.

Beds are platforms of ice and snow covered with reindeer hides. Guests sleep in sleeping bags. There are ice sculptures and specially carved ice chairs and tables in the rooms, but according to Carol guests don't usually spend much time lolling about in chairs made of ice. Although she slept well, she reports that Sandy hardly slept at all; he was worried that if he relaxed and closed his eyes, he'd freeze to death and never wake up. The room temperature was about minus 5 Celsius, or 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

The hotel has an ice bar, where drinks are served in glasses made of ice. There's also a restaurant, which serves hot food on regular dishes, in front of a blazing fire.

I'm thinking that part of the rationale for a winter vacation in Arctic Sweden is that it must feel pretty good when you leave; wherever you spend the rest of your winter, even if it's in what you normally consider a fairly wintry sort of place, must seem bright and sunny and maybe even toasty by comparison.

Posted by Ellen

Shoveling snow with Buddha
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over the mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling,
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside the generous pocket of his silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.