Thursday, November 6, 2014
A Snowy Ill Wind
Last Saturday morning began as expected, I awoke around five o'clock and was greeted by the sound of falling rain just like the smiling nondescript weatherman predicted the day before. After letting both the dogs outside so they could do their required morning business I made a cup of coffee and began surfing the internet along while toying with the idea of trying to write some fiction. The former proved irresistible, especially since whatever muse I use for the latter is still AWOL.
Once I satisfied my need for melding with the nascent global consciousness I drifted over to the living room couch and started watching a documentary on Netflix. I picked a film about the life of a famous Hawaiian surfer and quickly became engulfed with his life, and indirectly, the tropical atmosphere inherent with anything related to those islands.
Now understand, the weather forecast for last Saturday called for chilly temperatures and rain all day. I was completely happy with that meteorological prediction since such weather tends to relax my wife generally leading her to be lazy. On weekends where she is “energetic” my wife might become obsessed with some project, and when that happens everyone living in the house is required to share her enthusiasm.
Where everything went overboard occurred sometime around 6:30am when my daughter comes running into the living room. “It's snowing!,” she screamed in joy.
While still watching the surfer documentary, I was in that twilight area between being fully awake and lightly dozing producing a curious semi-dream like state where I actually felt like I was on a Hawaiian beach enjoying the salty breeze and the feel of soft warm sand between my toes. Needless to say, my daughter's gleeful proclamation about the weather caused my warm and fuzzy state of mind to fall apart like a poorly knitted sweater after someone began pulling on a loose thread.
Yes, it had been rather chilly earlier when I let the dogs out but as I got up from the couch to go look outside the idea of it snowing seemed beyond ridiculous. My first thought was that my daughter was trying to pull one of her practical jokes, a talent she seemed determined to perfect on me.
Sure enough, I opened the door to the backyard and was shocked to see that it just wasn't snowing but that I had at least half an inch of the white stuff on the deck. The scene was truly surreal in every sense of the word. The sky was a uniform dull silver with streaks of dark gray. Whipped up by a steady and energetic wind the white of the large and fluffy snow flakes were a stark contrast to the brooding sky. While watching all this I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that just the previous Wednesday the high temperature that day had been in the upper 80's. For a few seconds I stared outside and considered the possibility that I was still dreaming. About that same time, my daughter, who had ran outside while still in her PJ's, threw a nicely shaped snowball that smacked me squarely in the head. That officially ended any further consideration that I was somehow still detached from reality.
“Son of a bitch,” I said not really believing what I was seeing. “It doesn't snow in South Carolina in freaking November,” I added to no one in particular.
What does someone do when confronted by something they find quite disturbing? In my case with the unexpected and untimely appearance of snow I close the door, grab a blanket, and then hope with all my might that it ends as quickly as it began. There are two thing you have understand about me and snow.
The first being that I live in South Carolina. In this gloriously FUBAR state snow is such a rarity in the lower two-thirds it only takes two snowflakes hitting the ground to send everyone into an utter panic. People who aren't all that smart or rational to begin with rush to the nearest stores to load up on milk, bread, soup, and batteries the same way they do for hurricanes. Now you can't blame them in some respects, the lower two-thirds of the state doesn't have to deal with snow all that often there is no real justification to purchase and maintain a great deal of removal equipment.
The second reason is personal. Before I joined the active army back in July of 1986 I had seen significant snow about four or five times in my life. That almost made it an occasion to party by playing outside until we needed to warm up inside usually with a bowl of tomato soup in front of a fireplace. As someone transferring from the National Guard to active army one of my enlistment perks was the chance to pick my permanent duty station. For reasons I can't really explain anymore I picked Fort Carson, Colorado. If forced, I'll admit to listening to “Rocky Mountain High” by the late and great John Denver one too many times. By January of 1987 I had seen enough snow to last a lifetime, unfortunately for me Uncle Sammy didn't allow second choices and I had to deal with all that nightmarish frozen white stuff until my enlistment ended in 1990.
Since then snow has become akin to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to me. Yes, its nice and pretty coming down but invariably it turns to slush and fouls up the roads at night when temperatures go down making already semi-deranged drivers four-wheeled, fossil-fueled terminators. The final aspect involves trees, and that is where things got weird for me last Saturday.
Being at least a decent dad it didn't take much for my daughter to get me outside with her and play. We were outside for about ten minutes when I began hearing loud popping sounds accompanied by crashing sounds immediately after that. These calamitous noises were both loud and near enough to add another level of the surreal. The noises were so loud, I somehow imagined a platoon of irate Bigfoots stomping through the neighborhood. What it turned out to be was that it was so early in winter that all the trees still had most of their leaves. Like I already mentioned, the snowflakes were large and fluffy as well as slightly wet and they stuck to leaves like super strong post-it notes.
I made this discovery when one of the trees in the house across the street from me quite suddenly collapsed. I'm not taking about just a couple of medium-sized limbs but the entire tree. You'd have to understand the neighborhood social dynamic but my first concern was how the owners of that yard would react to the tree collapsing. The male of of that household is one of the anal compulsive types who pulls out his riding lawnmower and vacuums up fallen leaves every other day during autumn.
I didn't worry about the neighbors for long when I realized I might soon have tree issues of my own. Back when the house my family and I live was built the first owners planted river birches right on the edge of the street. I'm sure when they were young and small they were quite attractive additions to the landscaping. That was over twenty years ago, now in the best of weather they are Swords of Damocles waiting for a chance to abruptly shed a limb on top of someone's car. Over the years I've tried my best to convince my wife they should be removed but she refuses saying they add value to the property.
I usually then say something about our glorious neighbors suing us for damages if and when one of those limbs fall at an unfortunate time. She just dismisses my argument saying I'm just trying to get out of yard work. Well yeah, but I'm already the neighborhood pariah and figuring an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The snow continued to fall until about noon that day with me having a deathwatch on the trees in the front yard. Luckily my problem trees didn't collapse, in an effort to reduce late summer lawn cutting I had turned off the sprinkle system in August. Coupled with the lack of rain my trees started shedding leaves early reducing the overall weight on the limbs. Once the freak weather system moved out of the area the temperatures shot up melting nearly all of the snow. My trees returned to their proper position with me breathing a temporary sigh of relief. My worry now is that they have been weakened to the point a minor windstorm could bring them down.
Saturday's snow fun didn't end there, we lost satellite television reception just a few minutes after my daughter first alerted me to the climate change induced weather abnormality. In the greater scheme of things that wasn't a big issue, the various specialty networks, like History, Discover, and A&E, have long since turned to smelly poop filled with an incredible array of morons. Yes, we needed to hear weather reports but we got those over the internet, but guess what happened next.
We lost power around eleven o'clock, and it wasn't a clean shut off. In the space of maybe twenty seconds power died and came back on several times. Just when we thought the worst was over the lights in the house faded for a couple of seconds then outright died taking the internet with it. The electricity was out for about four hours and when it finally returned my wife, daughter, and I quickly learned that both the router and DSL modem were utterly fried. Strangely enough, out of everything that happened or could have occurred last Saturday, that is when things went straight to shit. Three people cooped in a house with no where to go and no internet, it was medieval.