Every summer I question my decision to live in the south. Cooler temps and short summers call like a siren’s song as I note — with more than a hint of envy — the high temperature in Madison, Wis., will be 74 degrees on July 17.
Then, sometime during the following winter, we get 3 inches of snow here in Arkansas.
As it dwindles away a day or so later, I mutter a prayer of thanks. Thanks for the glimpse of winter beauty. Thanks for the chance to build a snowman with my daughter. Thanks for making me one of the chosen, born south of the Mason-Dixon Line, where snow rarely hangs around for more than a few days.
I know, I know, nothing rivals the heady feeling of preparing for coming snow before the roads get bad. The proverbial grocery store run in search of milk, bread, and eggs – staples of humanity that no doubt fed us through the last ice age. The sudden addiction to Weather Channel radar. The relentless scanning of school and business closings. Part of our winter storm ritual involves stacking firewood on the porch so dear ol’dad can feed the fire without getting out of his house slippers. It’s a bucketful of fun due entirely to its novelty. But after a day or so the newness wears off.
The flooring at the front door has sunk into a permanent puddle. Yeah, the roads are better, but our car is pasted with sand and muck. And, as an Arkansan, the thought of going three days in row without wearing flip-flops and shorts outside sounds like heresy. This winter wonderland thing is getting old.
Those grumpy thoughts crawl through my mind as my socks soak up that icy puddle in front of the door. My mood sours even more from the frigid dampness.
I change socks.
Since I had already changed into a fresh pair of socks, I decide to go ahead and put the rubber boots on and step out into the frosty night. I’d meet the antagonist head on with a move of defiance.
The cold is startling at this late hour. As I step off the porch into the snow, silence greets my ears. It’s an unearthly quiet, as if the snow has muffled every sound. I don’t even hear the northern breeze as it flows around naked oak branches. The arctic air feels fresh as peppermint as it picks up additional chill from the blanket of snow.
Chilled air is best for viewing the moon and stars as well. Not many stars this night, though, because the moon is putting on quite a show with its frosty halo. Apparently, the stars know the competition is just too stiff.
The spicy smell of hickory smoke mixes with the icy breeze. I stand there looking at the moon, smiling in the cold, with thoughts of the warm fire and steaming mugs of cocoa waiting inside.
Maybe it would be ok if the snow hung around. Maybe just for one more day.